African American males were suspended at a rate more than six times that of white males across the district and over three times the rate of other students.

One of three reports that Urban Strategies Council has produced for the African American Male Achievement Initiative based on data from the 2010-11 school year, this report examines data, literature, and policy around suspensions of African American male students to uncover and better understand the disparities between this group and all other ethnic and gender groups. This report analyzes one year of suspension data from the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD, 2010-11), looking at suspensions by demographics, grade level, school level, and types of offenses (See Part I). We also look to the literature to illuminate the causal factors driving disparities in suspension and identify a number of recommendations based on this research (See Part II). Finally, we do an extensive analysis of the California Education Code, the OUSD Board Policies, the Oakland Education Association contract, the Voluntary Resolution Plan with the Officer of Civil Rights and the OUSD Parent Guide to understand how policies and practices are contributing to or addressing disparities (See Part III). We also offer a series of recommendations based on our data, literature and policy analysis (See Part IV).

Suspensions soared to a high in middle school for African American boys and were highly disproportionate at that level as well. While 18% of African American males were suspended, half of these students were suspended multiple times during the school year. This ratio was present in all school levels, while for non-African American students, the ratio of single to multiple suspensions was one in four. multisus Three offenses account for 75% of all suspensions of African American male students: disruption-defiance of authority, causing or threatening injury, and profanity-vulgarity. Of all African American male students, 11% were suspended for disruption-defiance compared to just 3% of all other students.

As part of our investigation into the variations in suspension practices and outcomes across OUSD schools, we mapped the location of each student and aggregated their data to the census tract they live in.  We then symbolized each tract (darker color indicates higher rate) with the rate of suspension for the African American males in that tract for the 2010-2011 academic year.  The second map below shows the rate of suspension for ALL students per school using the exact same break values in the tract coloring. We think these maps clearly illustrate the massive differential in suspension rates for African American male students compared to students overall and also serve to show how outcomes vary widely across the city.  There were only three tracts with overall suspension rates in the second highest range as the rates for African American males. Again we see an east/west bi-modal distribution: African American males are suspended at high rates across the city, but the overall rates in the central flat-lands are quite positive in comparison to the rest of the city. From the first map, the most striking outcome is that in almost half the city’s neighborhoods, African American males are suspended at a rate of at least one in five students in a single year.

As with most outcome data it is important to consider the data from both a facility (school) and a community (tract) perspective.

Download Zip File Containing All Maps, Graphics, & Reports:

Note that for relevance we removed tracts with fewer than 10 African American males as these neighborhoods’ data can easily skew the results and create misleading figures that are not statistically stable (numbers that cannot be trusted for interpretation).