In the United States, Black students are suspended at a disproportionately higher rate than white students (Government Accountability Office, 2018). As this trend has continued, the department of education has rolled back Obama era policies that were designed to discourage districts from suspending students of color at disproportionate rates (U.S. Department of Education, 2018). Furthermore, school districts are often segregated by race and further compounded by geographically concentrated inequality. The aim of this study is to examine how the racial makeup of schools affect suspensions as well as if school suspension rates are geographically concentrated. Specifically, this study examines those factors in the geographic extent of New York State (NYS), which has the most segregated schools in the country concerning black exposure to white students (Orfield, Ee, Frankenberg, & Siegel-Hawley, 2016).
Data were gathered and aggregated at the school district levels from the U.S. Department of Education 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection File and a NYS school district shapefile from the U.S. Census Geography Program for school district boundaries in 2017. The sample includes all high school students (n=876,871) in grades nine through twelve in conventional high schools from all school districts in NYS (n=633). Using OLS regression, racial/ethnic makeup of the school (percentage white, black, and Hispanic), number of people employed full time by the school in educational supports (counselors, psychologists, and social workers), and security (security guards and law enforcement officers) were tested as predictors of in-school and out-of-school suspensions. Spatial error regression models were also ran with the same variables to examine spatial dependence and geographic concentrations of suspensions.
Results showed that the percentage of Black students and the number of law enforcement officers employed by the district were significant predictors of higher rates of in-school suspensions. The spatial dependence of geographic concentrations of in-school suspensions was significant. However, only the number of law enforcement officers employed by the school district remained significant in a spatial error regression. Percentage of Black students and the number of law enforcement officers employed by the district were also significant predictors of higher rates of out-of-school suspensions. The spatial dependence of the concentration of out-of-school suspensions was significant at a higher level than in-school suspensions. The percentage of Black students and number of law enforcement officers employed by the school also remained significant predictors in a spatial error regression.
Results suggest that in NYS, school suspensions are disproportionately doled out to Black students. Results also suggest that the presence of law enforcement officers in schools may be a risk factor for higher in-school and out-of-school suspension rates. The rate of in-school and out-of-school suspensions are geographically concentrated and spatially dependent. Given these findings, actions should be taken to prevent the disproportionate use of suspensions with black students which is counter to the current stance of the department of education. In addition to race, the department of education could also focus efforts in areas where high suspension rates are more geographically concentrated than others.