Education News

Report: Texas Schools Suspending Thousands Of Elementary Students

In elementary school, much like older grades, certain students are suspended more often: children with special needs, boys and black students.

It’s fairly normal when a 6-year-old boy fidgets in class. But in some Texas classrooms, that can spell suspension.

A new report from the nonprofit Texas Appleseed details just how often young students are suspended, usually for minor misbehavior.

It found that in 2013-14, Texas schools issued almost 90,000 out-of-school suspensions to elementary-age students, including pre-kindergartners, and almost another 200,000 in-school suspensions for the same age group.

“These particular students aren’t misbehaving more than their peers. They’re simply punished more than their peers. And that’s an important distinction,” said Morgan Craven, who directs the school-to-prison pipeline project at Texas Appleseed.

It studied discipline records and found that in elementary school, much like older grades, certain students are suspended more: children with special needs, boys and black students.

For example, black students make up about 13 percent of elementary school population in Texas, but they account for 42 percent of all out-of-school suspensions from pre-K through fifth grade. 

“That was particularly alarming for us. Because while the suspensions themselves are usually inappropriate responses to regular classroom misbehavior, the fact that they are unfairly distributed among these social groups was really troubling,” said Yamanda Wright, the data scientist at Texas Appleseed.

Those suspensions can have a lasting impact, including days of missed classroom time and mistrust on campus.

“They do not help the small issues. They do not help the large issues. Instead, what we really need to do is equip educators with the tools that they need to really assist students,” Craven said.

The state’s largest school district might make that shift. The Houston school board is considering a ban on suspending any student before third grade and restricting suspension for students in third through fifth grade.

“Because of brain development, we feel strongly that at that age this should be completely eliminated. But our goal is to provide teachers and school staff, K-12, with strategies that will support eliminating suspensions,” said Annvi Utter, who oversees student support services at HISD.

 Utter said that those strategies include training teachers on how to manage their classrooms and more psychological support on campus.

The HISD board of trustees was slated to consider the ban previously at their October meeting, but delayed it until its meeting Thursday.

Texas School Districts with the Most Out-of-School Suspensions for Elementary Students

  1. Waco ISD: 22 actions for every 100 students
  2. Aldine ISD: 12 actions for every 100 students
  3. Fort Worth ISD: 11 actions for every 100 students
  4. Killeen ISD: 10 actions for every 100 students
  5. Alief ISD: 8 actions for every 100 students
  6. Houston ISD: 6 actions for every 100 students
  7. Dallas ISD: 6 actions for every 100 students
  8. San Antonio ISD: 6 actions for every 100 students
  9. Arlington ISD: 6 actions for every 100 students
  10. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD: 3 actions for every 100 students



Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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