Thirty-five billion dollars. That is what suspensions of sophomore students cost American taxpayers, according to a new UCLA study on the costs of school discipline. “School suspension rates have been rising since the early 1970s, especially for children of color. Moreover, because there are no immediate financial costs when sending a student home, some educators may assume there are no economic costs associated with this intervention,” said the study by the UCLA Civil Rights Project.
“Being suspended increases risk for dropping out of high school. That is a well-established fact,” explained co-author Dr. Russell W. Rumberger. He then continued on to explain that people who drop out earn lower wages, and are more likely to incur costs within the justice and law enforcement systems, and tend to rely more on social services and programs. This is what links suspension with high costs to society according to Rumberger.
Only 71% of suspended California sophomores went on to graduate, while 94% of their non-suspended peers graduated. Adjusting for socioeconomic and academic factors, the study still found a 13-point disparity in California students.
At Valhalla, suspension rates have fallen significantly from 4.4% in 2012-2013 to 2.9% in 2014-2015. District-wide rates have seen a similar trend, going from 7.1% to 4.1%. Despite this however, Valhalla’s dropout rate has increased slightly, going from 9.6% in 2011-2012 to 10.3% in 2013-2014.
While graduation rates have still slightly improved, along with declining suspensions, doubts remain about how tightly they are linked together, particularly at Valhalla. For significant improvements in suspension rates, graduation rates have improved only slightly, and many seniors are still at risk of not graduating this year. Ultimately, however, less suspensions mean students spend more time in the classroom, increasing their opportunities for academic success.