A new Missouri report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says African-American students are 4.5 times more likely to be suspended from school than their white peers. The figure is the largest inequality among all other states. At a press conference on Thursday, University City Schools Superintendent Saronica Hardin-Bartley calls the issue an epidemic, especially in the city of St. Louis and throughout University City.

Dr. Sharonica Hardin-Bartley (Photo courtesy of University City school district)

“We need to make certain that our schools are partnering with agencies, with individuals, with the entire community to embrace this issue,” says Hardin-Bartley. “Our practices must be more restorative in nature. The punitive measures simply do not work. They fail miserably.”

She says the issue has been prevalent for too long.

“We must embrace the mindset shift that is needed so that every single child, regardless of the color of their skin, the zip code in which they live, who their parents are, have the opportunity to be successful in an educational environment.”

The report also finds:

●Black students with disabilities are three times more likely to be suspended than white students with disabilities.
●Black boys are almost four times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than white boys.
●Black girls are six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than white girls.

According to the report, suspended students are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school or go to jail because they spend less time in the classroom.

The ACLU says changes can be made to correct these issues and it will be working with education officials to develop different policies. It indicates that in-school suspension, if handled appropriately, is much more effective for students.

The data used to organize the report is from the U.S. and Missouri Departments of Education.

To view the entire report, click here.