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Arlington Schools See Racial Disparity in Suspension Rates, Police Referrals

(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Following a national trend, data shows that Arlington Public Schools are disproportionately suspending black and Hispanic students compared to their white classmates.

The recently released stats from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that among the total 25,149 APS students, 10.6 percent were black, 28.4 percent were Hispanic and 46.1 percent were white. Meanwhile, the makeup of students serving in-school suspensions in APS was 29.1 percent black, 40.6 percent Hispanic and 19.4 percent white students. For students serving out-of-school suspensions, 29.5 percent were black, 33.3 percent were Hispanic and 27.6 percent were white.

APS administrators also referred disciplinary incidents to county police on 160 occasions, the stats show. In those cases, 25 percent of the students involved were black, 40.8 percent were Hispanic students and 25.8 percent were white students. There were only two expulsions at APS in 2015, and both students represented two or more racial backgrounds.

The racial disparity reflects a national trend revealed in the DOE’s report that found black students were suspended, expelled and referred to law enforcement more frequently than their white peers.

Nationally, in 2015, black students made up 31 percent of children referred to police or arrested, but only 15 percent of the total U.S. school population. White students comprised 49 percent of all students, but only made up 36 percent of student police referrals.

The disparity within APS also includes students with disabilities. Although students with disabilities only made up 13.3 percent of the school population, they comprised 34.6 percent of in-school suspensions, 42.5 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 46.7 percent of referrals to law enforcement.

In a statement emailed to ARLnow.com, Jeannette Allen, the school system’s director of administrative services, said that the APS is aware of the disproportionally large number of suspensions of both minority students and students with disabilities, and is committed to eliminating those disparities.

Allen highlighted the national problem as well, adding that the school system has seen these disparities persist, even as APS has recorded a decline in its total number of suspensions.

The top three offenses that lead to disciplinary action at APS are categorized as “disruptive behavior,” “altercation” and “fighting,” Allen said. Over the past few years, APS has begun to address the disparity by providing funds to schools to find alternatives to suspension, including training for administrators.

“Since most of our suspensions fall in the category of disruptive behavior, our primary focus is providing professional development,” Allen wrote. “Providing professional development and alternatives to suspension will help address the subjectivity that sometimes influences decisions to suspend a student. We are also providing targeted support for students to address their disruptive behaviors in a way that encourages behavioral improvements and helps students to self-regulate their actions and reactions.”

The rest of the suspension data for APS — including specific totals for Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown High Schools — is after the jump.

Arlington Public Schools
Total Students – 25,149
Black – 10.6%
White – 46.1%
Asian – 9%
Hispanic – 28.4%
Students with disabilities – 13.3%
In-School Suspensions – 635
Black – 29.1%
White – 19.4%
Asian – 5.7%
Hispanic – 40.6%
Students with disabilities – 34.6%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 315
Black – 29.5%
White – 27.6%
Asian – 6.3%
Hispanic – 33.3%
Students with disabilities – 42.5%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 120
Black – 25%
White – 25.8%
Asian – 3.3%
Hispanic – 40.8%
Students with disabilities – 46.7%
Expulsions – 2
Black – 25%
White – 37.5%
Asian – 12.5%
Hispanic – 25%
Students with disabilities – 0%

Washington-Lee High School
Total Students – 2,189
Black – 9.5%
White – 42.8%
Asian – 10.3%
Hispanic – 31.6%
Students with disabilities – 11.7%
In-School Suspensions – 138
Black – 23.2%
White – 25.4%
Asian – 4.3%
Hispanic – 42.8%
Students with disabilities – 39.9%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 62
Black – 30.6%
White – 21%
Asian – 3.2%
Hispanic – 41.9%
Students with disabilities – 53.2%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 16
Black – 25%
White – 37.5%
Asian – 12.5%
Hispanic – 25%
Students with disabilities – 50%
Expulsion – 0

Yorktown High School 
Total Students – 1,733
Black – 5.6%
White – 65.5%
Asian – 9.2%
Hispanic – 14.4%
Students with disabilities – 12.6%
In-School Suspensions – 25
Black – 24%
White – 28%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 32%
Students with disabilities – 40%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 14
Black – 29.5%
White – 27.6%
Asian – 6.3%
Hispanic – 33.3%
Students with disabilities – 71.4%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 8
Black – 0%
White – 50%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 25%
Students with disabilities – 50%
Expulsions – 2
Black – 0%
White – 0%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 0%
Two or More – 100%
Students with disabilities – 0%

Wakefield High School
Total Students – 1,708
Black – 22.2%
White – 20.1%
Asian – 9.5%
Hispanic – 42.9%
Students with disabilities – 17.7%
In-School Suspensions – 198
Black – 32.8%
White – 10.1%
Asian – 6.1%
Hispanic – 48%
Students with disabilities – 29.3%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 47
Black – 48.9%
White – 8.5%
Asian – 4.3%
Hispanic – 29.8%
Students with disabilities – 34%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 15
Black – 46.7%
White – 0%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 40%
Two or More – 13.3%
Students with disabilities – 40%
Expulsions – 0

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story misidentified Jeanette Allen, APS’ director of administrative services. File photo 

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