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Jackson calls for hearing on school discipline disparities

Cites high suspension rate at Up Academy Holland

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Jackson calls for hearing on school discipline disparities
City Councilor Tito Jackson heads the council’s Education Committee.

In the wake of revelations of high suspension rates at certain Boston schools, City Councilor Tito Jackson last week filed a hearing order to examine disparities in the administration of school discipline in the Boston Public Schools.

“There are disparities across the Boston school system when you see Up Academy suspending three- and four-year-olds, and when you look at the disparities in discipline at Boston Latin School,” he said. “It’s important that we look at these disparities and we fix them. We want to ensure there’s equality across the system.”

At Boston Latin School, the U.S. Attorney’s office is investigating allegations of racial disparities after a white student who had threatened a girl with an extension cord and used a racial epithet, was not suspended.

Up Academy Holland, a privately-run Boston school, suspended 233 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students out of the 755 students enrolled in those grades, according to data leaked to WBUR. Mirroring a national trend, black students in Boston receive suspensions at a much higher rate than whites. While 1.1 percent of white students in Boston received suspensions in 2014, 7.6 percent of blacks and 4.4 percent of Latinos received suspensions, according to data released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.

Charter suspensions

While charter schools may not fall under the purview of Jackson’s hearing order, many Boston charters have suspension rates far higher than district schools. In the 2014-2015 academic year, the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School suspended 40 percent of its students, down from 60 percent in the 2012-2013 academic year. Close behind was City On A Hill Charter School, with a suspension rate of 39 percent.

“Boston is home to most of the highest-suspending charter schools in the state,” noted Matthew Cregor, a staff attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee. “They’re among the highest-suspending schools in the state.”

‘Broken windows’

Up Academy Holland, which is a district school run by the nonprofit Up Education Network, embraces a so-called “broken windows” philosophy toward school discipline, awarding demerits for relatively minor infractions like talking in the hallways between classes or failing to sit still in one’s seat. WBUR reported that the school suspended more kindergarteners than any other school in Massachusetts during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Across Massachusetts 690 three- and four-year-olds were suspended in the last academic year. Up Academy Holland, where 68 students were suspended that year, accounted for nearly 10 percent of those suspensions.

Jackson says the high rates of suspension in some schools can take a toll on students.

“One of the most glaring effects is that young people are missing critical instruction time,” he said. “It has an adverse effect on parents. Many have to take time off from their jobs.”

Jackson’s hearing has not yet been scheduled.