Study: Virginia schools suspend black male students at twice the rate of white males

Dec 18, 2013 by Angela Ciolfi

A joint report released today by the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education and Charlottesville's Legal Aid Justice Center finds that in Virginia schools, black male students are twice as likely to be suspended as white male students. It also finds that most black students are being suspended for relatively minor misbehavior, such as being loud or disruptive in class.

The joint report also unveils the results of a new study demonstrating that use of the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines, developed by U.Va. professor Dewey Cornell, is associated with lower rates of school suspensions, including a smaller racial discipline gap. Schools using the guidelines have substantially lower rates of school suspensions, especially among black males.

Specifically, the report finds that:

  • Schools implementing threat assessment had smaller in their long-term suspension rates; and
  • Threat assessment was associated with lower rates of out-of- suspension overall: 15 percent fewer received short-term suspensions and 25 percent fewer students received long-term suspensions in schools using threat assessment.

"In previous longitudinal studies, we found that suspension rates were markedly reduced when schools adopted the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines," said Cornell, who led a Curry School team in conducting the study. "Our new cross-sectional study suggests a statewide impact involving more than 600 secondary schools with fewer suspensions for thousands of students."

The threat assessment guidelines are used in several thousand schools in more than a dozen states, Cornell said, and also have been used in Canadian schools and as a model for programs in several European countries.

"Studies have found no support for the hypothesis that black students misbehave more often," said Angela Ciolfi, the legal director of JustChildren, a child advocacy program of the Legal Aid Justice Center that provides free legal representation to low-income children families in Central Virginia. "In fact, racial disparities in suspension rates have raised increasing concern nationally because the data shows just the opposite – that are more likely to be suspended for more subjective and less serious reasons."

The new report also provides practical tips for educators and law enforcement professionals implementing threat assessment and makes several policy recommendations, including requiring that schools ensure suspended and expelled students continue to make academic progress during periods of disciplinary removal.

In response to the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Virginia became the first state in the country to mandate the formation of threat assessment teams in all its schools. Although the term "threat assessment" is unfamiliar to most educators, it is a violence prevention strategy that begins with an evaluation of persons who threaten to harm others and is followed by interventions designed to reduce the risk of violence.

A key aspect of threat assessment is its emphasis on considering the context and meaning of the student's behavior and taking action that is proportionate to the seriousness of the student's actions. This approach regards a threat as a sign of frustration or conflict that might be amenable to intervention, rather than simply a violation of rules that must be punished.

Currently, more than 1,000 of Virginia's schools are using the guidelines.

Explore further: Carsey Institute: Students with a disability more likely to be restrained, secluded in school

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2013
" relatively minor misbehavior, such as being loud or disruptive in class."

this is exactly the behavior that should get you suspended. It steals education from the entire class, patience from the educators and money from the taxpayers.

who are the screaming liberals that did this study that just don't get it.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2013
"In previous longitudinal studies, we found that suspension rates were markedly reduced when schools adopted the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines

Because with the ABYSMAL performance of public schools and the out of control behavior of most inner city schools this is exactly what we need...FEWER suspensions....

Good god....
1 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2013
The almost trademarked misleading and vague verbiage. "Relatively minor misbehavior, such as being loud or disruptive in class". Were they annoyingly loud or frighteningly so? When told to stop did they stop? Were they loud once or constantly, in every class? There is a real likelihood of whites acting one way and blacks acting another, yet both being, technically, "loud"! And brandishing a gun is "disruptive", too, but is that being considered something to let slide?
And restaurants are allowed to eject unruly diners and not sit them down and counsel them. Counseling is not what school is for, anyway! Schools are being made responsible for things conventional design does not allow for.
But, if we're going to adopt sympathy and understanding for disruption, even violence, why not apply that to "terrorists" and ask if they are really expressing their pain at CIA destabilization programs, Special Forces infiltration and establishing criminally corrupt dictators?

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.