Broward News

Florida Has Highest School Suspension Rate in Nation; Broward and Palm Beach Differ

A new report about school suspension rates finds that Florida suspends students at a higher rate than any other state in the nation. Broward County, however, has gone against the state trend by lowering school suspensions. But the same can't be said for Palm Beach County.

The report, Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap? from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 3.5 million public school students were suspended at least once during the 2011-12 school year, including elementary and secondary schools.

"To put this in perspective, the number of students suspended in just one school year could fill all of the stadium seats for nearly all the Super Bowls ever played (the first 45)," the report says.

The UCLA report also looks at racial disparities and finds that after years of black students getting suspended at a far higher rate than white students, the gap narrowed for the first time. However, that was due only to white kids getting suspended more often.

"Sixteen percent of Blacks and 7 percent of Latinos were suspended in both years, while rates for Whites rose from 4 percent to 5 percent," according to the report, which also says that suspension rates have been sharply increasing since the 1970s and have leveled off only during the past three years. See also: Florida School Arrests Down, But Still Disproportionately Affect Black Youth

In Florida, 19 percent of all secondary students get suspended, which is the highest rate in the nation.

Broward County's average is far below the state average at 8.59 percent. And although black students are suspended at a higher rate than other races in the county, that rate is lower than the national average. In Broward, 13 percent blacks students get suspended. Nationwide, the number is 16 percent.

Other races in Broward are on par with the national average: 7 percent of Latino students and 5 percent white students.

Palm Beach County's numbers are not as good. In fact, 23 percent of its students get suspended, higher than the state average. And it suspends black students at more than twice the national rate: 38 percent of black students in Palm Beach County will get a suspension slip.

Palm Beach suspends 24 percent of its Latino students, more than three times the national average. And 10 percent of white kids get temporarily kicked out of school, which is good for twice the national rate.

See also: Rep. Katie Edwards Files Bill to Reform How Florida Prosecutes Juveniles as Adults

One reason Broward County's numbers are so much better than its neighbor's to the north is because of a concentrated effort over the past few years to reduce suspension rates in favor of other, less educationally disruptive means of discipline.

Broward has also managed to greatly decrease its number of school arrests over that time.

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Ray Downs
Contact: Ray Downs