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State: 12 Michigan school districts disproportionately suspend students of color

Nov 17, 2017

Twelve Michigan school districts made the state’s 2017 list of schools that disproportionately suspend students of color.

The Michigan Department of Education puts out an annual “significant disproportionality list” in three areas: student discipline, students with identified disabilities, and educational environment.

Districts are added to the list if they suspend or otherwise remove minority group students from school, at a rate at least three times more than their share of the district’s overall population.

Ten school districts were cited for over-suspending black students in the 2015-16 school year: Airport Community Schools, Ann Arbor, Berrien Springs, Chippewa Valley, Dearborn, Forest Hills, Grosse Pointe, Kelloggsville, Northwest Community Schools, and Troy.

Ann Arbor has landed on the list for the past five years. Assistant Superintendent Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley says the district has already taken aggressive steps to reduce the disparity, and cut down on school removal as a disciplinary measure overall.

Dickinson-Kelley says AAPS now has designated “intervention specialists” in all its high schools and middle schools. It recently added a team to rotate among the district’s elementary schools as well.

Dickinson-Kelley says between that and other changes, she’s confident AAPS won’t show up on next year’s disproportionality list.

“I feel very positive about that,” she said. “And not only are we trending in the right direction, we are committed to maintaining and sustaining those efforts as well.”

Danny Bartz is the special education director for Berrien Springs Public Schools. He says that district has also changed its approach to student discipline.

“We knew this [disparity] was a problem, so we took some proactive steps to deal with it,” Bartz said.

Those steps include staff training in de-escalation and other conflict management techniques, and hiring more behavioral intervention support staff.

And Bartz says it’s already showing results. “It has already really, really decreased the amount of removals and suspensions that we’ve had,” he said.