Lake Wales charter school in Florida had one of the highest suspension rates (45.3%) in the nation. A U.C.L.A. Civil Rights Project study gathered out of school suspension rates for all 5,250 charter schools from 2011-12. They compared them to traditional public schools.
Charter schools had a somewhat higher rate on average. What was startling was how variable the suspension rates were among charter schools. Some were extraordinarily high. This is not just about suspension rates, however. Half of all black students attending charter high schools were enrolled in 270 schools that were hyper segregated (over 80% black). Their suspension rate was 25%. Other disturbing findings were:
- Over 500, about 10%, of the charters had higher suspension rates than traditional public schools.
- 235 charters suspended half of their students with disabilities.
- Over 1,000 charters had suspension rates for students with disabilities that were at least ten percent higher than traditional public schools.
As one might expect, suspensions were lower in elementary schools than in high schools. The study questioned, however, the number of charters that reported no suspensions. Twice as many charters reported no suspensions than did traditional schools.
Interesting or alarming is the fact that Florida’s suspension rate of black high school students is 30% which is higher than in California, Texas, New York and Illinois.
Inquiries into harsh disciplinary practices in charter schools has raised questions about civil rights violations. The core recommendation of the study is that charters should curb overuse of disciplinary exclusion and replace them with more effective alternatives. There should be no exemptions or excuses for charter schools.