NEPC Review: Suspended Reality: The Impact of Suspension Policy on Student Safety (Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, October 2021)
A report suggests a relationship between school suspension rates and students’ perceptions of safety in Milwaukee schools. Specifically, it finds that following an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, lower suspension rates for African American students predicted higher numbers of students feeling unsafe in schools. The report asserts that “reduced suspension rates for African American students resulted in lower reports of safety.” Thus, the report erroneously communicates to readers that decreases in suspensions of African American students are causing decreased feelings of student safety, and that the Department of Education agreement harms, rather than helps, African American students. This review of the report finds numerous concerns, including unsupported claims, misleading interpretations, conflation of correlation with causation, and the use of racially criminalizing stereotypes of African American students. The report is therefore not useful to policymakers as a basis for policy decisions about school discipline.