School Spotlight: Alternatives to Suspension / Expulsion

This School Spotlight chronicles five California charter schools’ experiences implementing alternatives to the traditional suspensions/expulsion model, in an effort to keep students in the classroom and end the “suspension to prison pipeline.” Information was gathered from interviews with charter leaders highlighting why their schools chose to proactively pursue discipline alternatives and the results of doing so. The schools interviewed varied by pedagogy, size, and geographic region, including a college preparatory elementary school, urban/suburban schools, a project-based learning school, a comprehensive high school, and a conversion school.
Over the last several years, there has been much research nationally into the areas of restorative justice practices and suspensions rates. In order to better understand these issues, the California Charter Schools Association began to investigate what the publicly available data indicate about differences between charter and traditional public school suspension rates. The CCSA research team relied on publicly available data from the California Department of Education to ensure that data was available for all schools and that others could replicate this methodology. The research team discovered some complications with the data because the California Department of Education (CDE) redacts its publicly available data files in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Due to limited availability of data, there is no one perfect file on which to perform any analysis of suspension rates. The research team, therefore, analyzed two different publicly available datasets from the CDE –unduplicated and duplicated suspension rate files – and found similar conclusions in both. Charter schools, on average suspend students at a similar and sometimes lower rates than do traditional public schools. This holds true for all ethnic subgroups as well as all grade levels (elementary, middle & high schools).