The number of students who were suspended or arrested at school fell dramatically during the first full school year of the pandemic, new federal data show, according to Chalkbeat Chicago.
And though disparities in who got suspended or arrested at school persisted along lines of race and disability, in some cases, those gaps narrowed considerably, especially for Black students.
The data come as many schools wrestle with how discipline should look in the wake of a pandemic that left many students with greater social and emotional needs.
Suspensions and expulsions had been falling for years even before COVID hit, as many schools took steps to curb disciplinary practices that removed students from the classroom. But the declines during the 2020-21 school year were much steeper.
The drops probably reflect a combination of fewer students learning in person and a reticence among educators to remove students from the classroom at a time when many kids craved in-person contact with their teachers and peers..
Around 639,000 K-12 students were suspended from school at least once during the first full year of the pandemic, down from 2.5 million students during the 2017-18 school year, the last period with comparable data.
That represents a 75% decline. (For comparison, suspensions dropped around 11% from the 2013-14 school year to 2017-18 school year.)
Similarly, the number of students who experienced an in-school suspension fell by 70%. The number of students who were referred to law enforcement dropped by 73%. And the number of students who were arrested at school plummeted 84% to around 8,900.
Education department officials cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from an anomalous school year filled with disruptions for both students and the staff who collect this data.
Reports of bullying and harassment related to a student’s race, sex, or disability also fell notably by 64%. Black students were still more than twice as likely as their peers to experience race-based bullying or harassment.