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Linking Suspensions and Health Risks

Samantha Oltman | October 12, 2012

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A California Endowment ad calling for changes in school discipline policies

The largest health foundation in the state, the California Endowment, is putting big money behind an issue not usually associated with health: student suspension and expulsion policies.

Earlier this week, the Endowment ran a full-page advertisement in four major California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, praising legislators for recently passing six statewide laws to reform strict “zero tolerance” discipline policies.

Suspensions at Garfield High School in East LA went down from 510 to just one, according to the Endowment’s ad (pictured).

The link between health and student suspension rates may not be obvious at first, but a May 2012 study funded by the Endowment found that high suspension rates are correlated with low academic achievement, higher crime rates, higher school dropout rates, and ultimately higher health risks. The study focused on three school districts in California, including LAUSD.

Although there is more work to be done, LAUSD is on its way to reforming its suspension and expulsion policies. According to the study, when the district changed its discipline policies in 2007, suspension rates dramatically improved, with suspensions dropping by 43 percent since 2004.

Data from the 2009 – 2010 school year revealed African-Americans students in Los Angeles are singled out for suspension far more often than their white, Asian, and Latino peers. Although African-American students make up less than 10 percent of school enrollment, they accounted for 26 percent of suspensions in the district. Under Supt. John Deasy, LAUSD now monitors school suspensions by race and economic status, which Deasy says has lowered suspension rates.

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