DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – More than half of junior high and high school students in Texas will be suspended or expelled before they graduate. A new study ties that high discipline rate to lower graduation rates, and higher crime rates.
13-year-old Joe Wallace is just going into the 8th grade in the fall in Dallas, but his mother Lakaisha Wallace says he’s already well schooled in being suspended. “You were disruptive in class today. let’s expel you for two days. That’s zero tolerance you know, but that’s what we’re facing.”
As an African-American with learning difficulties, Joe is in one of the highest risk groups of kids being removed from classrooms across the state.
The Council of State Governments studied school records of nearly one million Texas students and found nearly 6 in 10 were suspended or expelled between 7th and 12th grade.
Of those suspended, 10 percent dropped out. One in seven had contact with the juvenile justice system.
“Where we are, as far as classroom sizes, oh you’re going to have to do something. Or you will not be able to effectively teach,” says Dallas Cater High School teacher Curtis Ferguson.
Ferguson says teachers don’t want administrators to toss kids out. It reflects badly on them and doesn’t always help the student. Educators, he said, may just have to accept working harder with kids. “You have to be prepared to pull a rabbit out of a hat. which means extensive training, longer hours.”
Wallace has tried to organize with parents through the Texas Organizing Project, but still feels schools are taking the easy way out with difficult kids. “It’s easier to deal with that than to find out what’s actually affecting the child.”
The study found only three percent of suspensions were actually required by Texas law and individual schools are making vastly different decisions on when students should be suspended.
Dallas ISD is compiling data from its own survey of tens of thousands of students. A DISD spokesman says the district survey is designed to find ways staff can help students more.
The district says it has increased its graduation rate and decreased the dropout rate over the last three school years.