New DOE Data Reveals Gross Inequities in Our Nation’s Schools

                   

 WASHINGTON, D.C (March 21, 2014)Today the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released data providing a comprehensive look at how every public school in the United States educated the nation’s children for the 2011- 12 School Year.

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) Executive Director, Curt Decker: “We are pleased to see the data reported in the context of our entire public education system, students of all types, from preschool to college prep. This reinforces the key principle of our public education system: that school is for all students, and that each student is valued, all the way through to graduation and beyond. The information in the Civil Rights Data Collection released today informs us exactly where we must dedicate our concern and our resources in order to ensure that we keep our word to all of our students. We commend Secretary Duncan and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for undertaking this important project and seek the Department’s leadership in righting the blatant and egregious disparities it has revealed.”

Most shocking, after years of focus on this issue, the 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC)[1] shows that there were over 70,000 students who were physically restrained, and over 37,000 students who were secluded nationwide. In addition, over 4,000 students served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were mechanically restrained. Students with disabilities represent 12% of the students enrolled in public school, yet they represent 75% of the students physically restrained. These numbers and the disproportionate use of these practices with students with disabilities and students of racial/ethnic minorities, show a clear national problem that must be addressed by federal legislation.

It is often worse in some states. In Florida for example, over 95% of the children who were physically restrained were children with disabilities. Yet, it is not necessarily so in other states were rates were below 50%. This shows us that it is possible to use other methods to keep students and staff safe without using practices known to harm children.

Distressing too were the recent data regarding the suspension and expulsion rates for children with disabilities and African American students, including new data about removal rates for preschoolers. At the very moment that communities are fighting to fund pre- kindergarten education for children, because we now have evidence to support how critical pre– kindergarten is to academic success, preschool children are being removed from school at incredibly high rates. For example, African American preschoolers make up 18% of the preschool population and 42% of the children suspended one time. In general, students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out of school suspension as their peers without disabilities.

We support the Department’s leadership thus far in collecting and releasing this data, and yet, much more is needed. Leadership opportunities include effective enforcement of the IDEA and Section 504, especially those provisions that require school districts to provide behavioral supports to students with disabilities, and the implementation of evidenced based practices in school settings. These are necessary to bring down the high rates of restraint, seclusion, and school removal. While the data demonstrate disparities in their utilization, they also show that these practices continue to be over utilized as a practical matter, even as we know that more effective and less harmful alternatives are readily available.

The Department is not alone in its responsibility to keep the promise of public education to all students. Each level, state, community, school district and individual, has a unique role in ensuring that public school is safe and truly available to all students.

###

NDRN strives to create a society in which people with disabilities are afforded equal opportunity and are able to fully participate by exercising choice and self-determination. It promotes the integrity and capacity of the P&A/CAP national network by providing training, technical assistance, legislative advocacy, and legal support. NDRN advocates for the enactment and vigorous enforcement of laws protecting the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.



[1] U.S. Dep’t of Education, Civil Rights Data Collection (March 21, 2014), available at http://ocrdata.ed.gov/.