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Local school closing gap between black and white suspension rates

The most recent report of discipline data by the Florida Department of Education found black students in the state are suspended six percent more than white students. In the Hernando County School District, the report showed schools suspended black students almost 15 percent more.

After receiving the statistics, Hernando schools have been making serious efforts to close the gap.

The report found out of 1,600 black students in Hernando schools, the district suspended over 25 percent in the 2016 school year. This accounted for 1,200 days missed for out-of-school suspension for black students. Comparatively, the school district only suspended 11 percent of the 15,000 white students. These suspensions only accounted for 4,000 days missed.

While Hernando schools had a higher suspension discrepancy between black and white students than most other school districts in the state, the district showed a similar trend to the state as a whole. Of the almost 200,000 students statewide, over 11 percent of the suspensions were black students and only 5 percent of the suspensions were white students.

Last spring, the district assembled focus groups comprised of community leaders, faculty and students. The district focused initial efforts on three schools, including an elementary school, a middle school and a high school. The three schools showed two common reasons for the discrepancy:

  1. Bad relationships between teachers and black students.
  2. Bad relationships between teachers and parents of black students.

Hernando schools are now encouraging teachers to talk with students about how they show and receive respect, as communication styles can differ across cultures. Teachers are also making more calls to students’ homes to speak with parents about how their children are doing in school. Additionally, high school teachers specifically are supposed to talk with students about poor actions before enforcing discipline.

While Hernando schools believe the efforts are working, disproportionate discipline still occurs. If your child has been disproportionately disciplined due to race, it might be beneficial to discuss his or her options with an experienced education attorney.

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