There have been 1,191 cases of suspension or expulsion in Spokane Public Schools’ first 60 school days this year.
That’s a 22 percent increase compared to the same time last year.
At that time some district staff linked the increased numbers to the Freeman High School shooting and the Las Vegas shooting.
The district has, over the last two years, instituted restorative discipline – a system that emphasizes reducing out-of-school discipline and encourages communication and training to deflate situations. However, some teachers and parents believe the focus on reducing discipline has created unsafe working and learning environments.
Although this year’s numbers of suspensions and expulsions are higher than last year, they are still lower than previous years. In 2015-16, for instance, 1,437 students were suspended or expelled through November.
A 2016 state law limited long-term suspension and expulsion and demands districts collect and publish more data on discipline. Last school year the district published quarterly updates. Now the district is publishing monthly updates, including student arrest data.
The November report indicates that roughly 2 percent of the district’s 31,715 students were suspended or expelled in the first 60 days of school, said district spokesman Kevin Morrison in an email. The district remains committed to providing “opportunities to keep students in a safe, productive school environment” while maintaining school safety and order, he said.
“The superintendent’s community work group will continue to review the data to better understand the issues surrounding disproportionality in our populations of free and reduced lunch rates, special education and students of color,” Morrison said in the email.
Special education students continued to be disciplined at a disproportionate rate, making up 34 percent of all expulsions or exclusions, despite only representing 16 percent of enrolled students. Additionally, students qualifying for free and reduced lunch continued to be more likely to be disciplined than students from wealtheir families. Free and reduced lunch qualifying students made up 86 percent of all expulsions and suspensions, while representing 53 percent of the district’s population.
Multi-racial students accounted for 21 percent of all suspensions and expulsions while making up 13 percent of the population.
School resource officers have made 37 arrests. Twenty-four of those arrested were students of color and 13 were white students. There have been 15 cases of campus resource officers restraining students.