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Student Exclusions: School Year 2002–03

I. Background

The 2002–03 school year was the tenth year in which the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education required schools to submit student level data on student exclusions. The following analysis is based on data reported by districts on students excluded, as defined at the right, between July 1, 2002, and June 30, 2003.

II. Results

Reporting from the 376 school districts, charter schools and regional vocational technical schools, there were 1,949 student exclusions in the 2002–03 school year. A total of 1,890 students were excluded, of whom 58 were excluded two or more times during the year. The greatest number of exclusions for an individual student was three.

Table 1. Student Exclusions Over Time
Number of Student Exclusions1,6211,7751,949
Number of Individual Students Excluded1,5731,7201,890
Number of Students Excluded More Than Once465158
Percent of Students Receiving Alternative Education71%73%75%

The number of students excluded more than once during the 2002–03 school year increased by 14 percent from the previous year and by 26 percent from the 2000–01 school year. The percent of students excluded from school that were provided with alternative education continues to increase incrementally.

The number of student exclusions has fluctuated over time. As illustrated in Figure 1, in the 1998–99 school year the lowest number of student exclusions were reported. However, in the following school years the number of student exclusions rose incrementally with the largest increase occurring between school years 1999–00 and 2000–01.

Figure 1

III. Exclusion Rates

Exclusion rates represent instances of exclusion per 1000 students enrolled. The overall exclusion rate has increased slightly over the past three years going from 1.7 in the 2000–01 school year, to 2.0 in the 2002–03 school year. As depicted in Table 2, exclusion rates by race/ethnicity over the past three years have shown that African-American and Hispanic students are excluded at much higher rates than other groups. In addition, in school year 2002–03 there was a dramatic increase in the exclusion rates for African-American and Hispanic students from the previous school year. Over that same time period, the exclusion rates for Asian and white students fluctuated. The rates for Native American students showed an increase, but trends are difficult to interpret due to the low enrollment of Native American students in the state.

Although the exclusion rate for general education students has steadily increased over the past three years, the exclusion rate for special education students has risen much higher, with the largest increase occurring between the 2000–01 and 2001–02 school year.

Table 2. Exclusion Rates by Gender, by Race/Ethnicity and by Program Status
 2000–01 2001–02 2002–03
 #Rate #Rate #Rate
Overall 1,6211.7 1,7751.9 1,9492.0
 Male 1,2492.5 1,3962.8 1,5103.0
Female 3720.8 3790.8 4390.9
 African-American 4385.1 4175.0 5246.1
Asian 551.3 421.0 621.4
Hispanic 4814.6 5014.8 6115.5
Native American  31.1 61.9 82.6
White 6440.9 8091.1 7441.0
 Program Status
 General Education 1,2271.2 1,3001.3 1,4401.4
*Referred Reg. Ed. 00 00 (20) 
Special Education 3942.6 4743.1 5093.3
Missing 00 10 00

Figure 2

As shown in Table 3, rates over the past three years have increased for many grades, in particular for grades nine through 11. Trend data indicate that exclusion rates consistently rise in grades leading up to ninth grade, peak at the ninth, and then decrease.

Table 3. Exclusion Rates by Grades
 2000–01 2001–02 2002–03
Grades #Rate #Rate #Rate
K 60.1 40.1 30.3
190.1 130.2 90.1
2100.1 100.1 120.2
370.1 140.2 170.2
4230.3 140.2 110.1
5320.4 350.5 340.4
6941.2 901.1 1041.3
71962.6 1772.3 2513.2
82673.6 2913.9 2823.6
9 4275.4 4305.3 5506.7
10 2333.4 3024.3 3014.2
111862.9 2373.7 2313.5
121312.3 1582.7 1442.4
Totals 1,621 1,775 1,949 

IV. Exclusions by Type of Offense

Schools reported one or more offenses for each student exclusion. Table 4a and Figure 3 illustrate the number of exclusions that occurred for each of the offenses specified in the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 71, Section 37H, as actions for which school principals are authorized to expel students, and for "other" offenses. Starting in 2001–02, exclusions that involved two or more offenses are reported in each applicable offense category. This is a change from reporting in prior years when exclusions with two or more offenses were counted as either "weapon combination" or "non-weapon combination". Due to this change, the totals by type of offense may sum to more than the total number of exclusions.

Trend data indicate that student exclusions by type of offense and type of weapon have not changed significantly over the past three years as illustrated in Table 4a. Most of the offenses reported were due to either possession of an illegal substance on school premises (25 percent), followed by weapons on school property (22 percent) and other types of offenses (21 percent). For those offenses by type of weapon, an overwhelming majority involved knives, 71 percent, and approximately 22 percent involved types of weapons other than knives, guns, or explosive/incendiary devices.

Table 4a. Exclusions by Type of Offense
 2000-01 2001-02* 2002-03*
 #% #% #%
Weapon on school premises32420 38820 46122
Illegal substance on school premises40325 55928 51125
Assault on school staff21813 22912 30215
Assault on student1529 1558 26313
Felony outside of school1026 1558 985
Other32220 49325 43321
Weapon combination332 na  na 
Non-weapon combination674 na  na 
   Total Number of Offenses1,621 1,979 2,068 
Type of Weapon**
Knife25471 29477 33171
Gun236 185 286
Explosive/incendiary device93 10 31
Other6618 7018 10522
More than one type of weapon62 na  na 

Figure 3

According to the Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA) of 1994, each state must have in effect a State law requiring the school district to immediately expel a student for a period of not less than one year, if he/she is found to have brought or to have possessed a gun/firearm at school. Each State's law must also stipulate that the school district superintendent has the authority to shorten the expulsion period on a case-by-case basis. Of the 28 gun offenses reported in school year 2002–03, three were shortened by the superintendent and the remaining 25 were not.

Beginning in school year 2001–02, additional data were collected on types of guns and explosive or incendiary devices reported in order to comply with the annual federal reporting requirements of the Gun-Free School Act (Table 4b).

Table 4b. Exclusions by Type of Gun/Explosive or Incendiary Devices
Other Firearm819
Explosive or Incendiary Devices2001–022002–03
Mine or Other Similar Device11

V. Exclusions by Type of Offense and by Race/Ethnicity

Figure 4

Figure 4 compares the percentage of exclusions for each type of offense that involved racial/ethnic minority students and white students. Minority students accounted for the majority of exclusions for weapons violations, assaults on staff, assaults on students, and other offenses, while white students accounted for the majority of exclusions for possession of illegal substances. Minority and white students accounted equally for exclusions due to felonies outside of school.

VI. Exclusions by Length of Time

Schools were asked to report the date the student was excluded and either the date the student returned to school or was eligible to return to school, if the exclusion was not permanent. In 1999, the Department began collecting data specifically on the number of school days a student missed due to exclusion from school. Previous reports included analyses of exclusions by calendar days.

Figure 5In school year 2002–03, a number of trends emerged from the data. Just over half of the student exclusions were between 11 to 20 school days and between 21 to 40 school days as shown in Figure 5.

When calculating the state average for the number of schools days missed for non-permanent exclusions over the past three years, it was found that the average number of days missed has remained relatively constant over time. In school year 2000–01, the state average was 57 school days missed, in 2001–02, the average was 55 school days missed and in 2002–03, the average was 57 school days missed. In Table 5, the numbers of school days missed are displayed by categories. Most notable is the substantial increase in the number of exclusions for school year 2002–03 in the 180 days (one school year) category from school year 2001–02.

Table 5. Length of Exclusions by School Days Missed
11–20 school days247152911628615
21–40 school days631396203577740
41–179 school days461285983458830
180 days (one school year)1077493925
Longer than one school year703030
Totals1,621 1,775 1,949 

Table 6 illustrates that the length of exclusion varied by race/ethnicity. For example, 16 percent of all white students excluded were excluded permanently, compared to six percent of the African-American students and seven percent of the Hispanic students.

Table 6. Length of Exclusion by Race/Ethnicity, 2002–03
180 (one
than one
school yr
Afr Am5210239461833517310326524100
Nat Am11333833800001138100

Last Updated: June 14, 2004
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