U.S. children’s ability to avoid deeply damaging school punishments depends on where they live or where their parents send them to school, NBC News reports. In much of the country, districts offer students facing suspensions or expulsions only the most basic legal protections required by a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court decision: Schools must tell students what they’re accused of and give them a chance to respond before, or soon after, removing them from class. Other legal protections are not guaranteed for students in every state. “The sad reality is you can remove kids from school for very long periods of time in some states with minimal due process,” said Harold Jordan of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Nationally, more than 101,000 students were expelled and 2.5 million suspended in the 2017-18 school year. Research shows that suspensions increase a student’s odds of dropping out of school or ending up in the criminal justice system. These punishments have long been inequitable, with one recent report finding that 27% of Black boys with disabilities were suspended from U.S. middle and high schools compared with 7% of students overall. Responding to research showing that these punishments are ineffective, associated with higher rates of school disruption and violence as well as lower test scores, many schools have turned to “restorative” practices that focus on students' taking responsibility and remaining in class. These changes have led to a decline in suspension rates since 2010, but rates are still higher than they were in the 1980s, and racial disparities have persisted. Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court have clearly defined students rights in a way that would make them consistent across the U.S.