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Information Services - Statistical Reports

Student Exclusions 1997 - 1998

April 1999

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to issue our annual report, Student Exclusions in Massachusetts Public Schools: 1997-98. This report provides information regarding student exclusions, defined as the removal of a student from school for disciplinary reasons permanently, indefinitely or for more than ten consecutive school days. This information will be useful to the legislature, the Governor, and the Board of Education as they continue to address the issues of student discipline and school safety.

The Education Reform Act of 1993 and subsequent amendments authorize school principals, rather than school committees, to expel students who carry weapons or illegal drugs to school, assault school personnel or are convicted of a felony off school grounds. Districts are not required to provide excluded students with alternative education, with the exception of special education students who under federal law are entitled to receive alternative education if removed from school for ten days or more.

Summary of Key Findings

In the 1997-98 school year, there were 1,334 student exclusions, an 11 percent decrease from the 1,498 exclusions in the 1996-97 school year. Springfield accounted for much of this decrease, as the number of student exclusions in Springfield declined from 399 in 1996-97 to 302 in 1997-98. Springfield’s superintendent Peter Negroni attributed this drop to the fact that more students are being placed in alternative programs that he believes are effectively addressing many of the issues that can lead to the removal of students from school.

Nearly 67 percent of all students who were excluded from school were provided with alternative education, an increase of nearly four percentage points from the 1996-97 school year. Among regular education students excluded from school, 58 percent were provided with alternative education, an increase of over three percentage points from the previous year. Of special education students excluded from school, 95 percent were provided with alternative education, an increase of slightly more than six percentage points from the prior year.

For those students who were excluded from school and were provided with alternative education, just under 57 percent attended an in-district alternative program, and nearly 29 percent were provided with home tutoring. In cases where students were not provided with alternative education, the reason reported for nearly 70 percent of exclusions was that the school chose not to provide it, down by over five percentage points from the prior year, but up by nearly 32 percentage points from the 1995-96 school year.

Over one-quarter of all student exclusions (26 percent) involved a weapon, virtually the same as the previous year. Of those exclusions that involved a weapon, under six percent involved a gun. The percentage of student exclusions that resulted from possession of an illegal substance (22 percent) also stayed about the same as the prior year. The percentage of exclusions resulting from a felony committed outside of school more than doubled, from four to nearly ten percent.

In comparison to the total student enrollment, a disproportionate number of students excluded from school were African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American students. Minority students comprised 23 percent of the total student enrollment but accounted for 58 percent of student exclusions. Although white students comprised 76 percent of the total student enrollment, they accounted for 41 percent of student exclusions.

Exclusion rates varied among school districts. In 1997-98, 155 districts excluded students, an increase of one district from the previous year. Over half of all school districts, or 199 districts, reported no student exclusions. There were 91 districts that reported between one and three exclusions for the school year, and 43 districts reported between four and nine exclusions. Twenty-one districts reported ten or more student exclusions, down from 24 districts the prior year.

Safe schools are a top priority. Providing students with a safe learning environment is essential to furnishing them with an effective education. Suspending and expelling some disruptive students will strengthen the climate for learning for the students in school. Many districts do an outstanding job in providing most or all of the students they exclude with alternative education. That is a very important goal statewide. We appreciate the efforts that school districts are making to provide safe and orderly schools and to provide serious learning opportunities for all students.

Sincerely,

David P. Driscoll
Commissioner of Education

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Last Updated: April 1, 1999
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