Ed Department Finds Students With Disabilities Disproportionately Disciplined

New civil rights data from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that students with disabilities are more likely to be disciplined than others. (Anne Meadows/Flickr)

For the first time in years, federal education officials are releasing data that shows how the experiences of students with disabilities in the nation’s schools vary from others, and the picture is bleak.

Students with disabilities represent a higher percentage of those attending public schools than a few years ago, according to recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education’s latest collection of civil rights data. At the same time, these children are much more likely than others to be subjected to restraints and seclusion, to be suspended, expelled, or referred to authorities .

The information offers a look at the situation in more than 17,000 school districts and more than 97,000 public schools during the 2020-2021 school year.

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Current findings include information on enrollment, as well as student access to courses, teachers and other school staff, Internet, and devices. Additionally, the data addresses discipline, bullying, and other factors related to school climate.

“We cannot be complacent when data repeatedly tells us that students’ race, gender, or disability continues to dramatically impact everything from access to advanced placement courses to the availability of school counselors to the use of exclusionary and disciplinary practices. traumatic,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

The Department of Education typically collects civil rights data every two years. However, those activities were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic and the current release is the first since 2020, when officials released data collected on the 2017-2018 school year.

Nationwide, 17% of public school students have disabilities, 14% receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and 3% are covered only by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, shows The report. In comparison, students with disabilities accounted for 15.9% of enrollment in 2017-2018.

The latest findings indicate that people with disabilities continue to be disciplined at a disproportionate rate, accounting for 29% of K-12 students receiving out-of-school suspensions and 21% of expulsions. They were also more likely to experience school-related arrests or be referred to authorities.

Of the 42,500 allegations of harassment or bullying reported by public school students during the 2020-2021 school year, 9% were based on disability.

Children served under IDEA were much more likely than others to experience restraint and seclusion: They represented 32% of those who were mechanically restrained, 81% of students who were physically restrained, and 75% of children who were secluded. They also enrolled less frequently in math and science courses.

“This new CRDC data reflects troubling disparities in students’ experiences in our nation’s schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education. “We remain committed to working with school communities to ensure the full civil rights protections required by federal law.”

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