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Variable Definitions:
Students Suspended: The percentage of enrolled students who are suspended at any point in a given school year. Students who are suspended multiple times are only counted once.

Students Suspended for Defiance Only: The percentage of suspended students who are suspended with a listed reason of “disruption”. This excludes suspensions that are given due to violence, weapons, or drugs.

Methodology Note: 

The original data comes at the school level. Our team geocoded the school locations to generate X/Y coordinates, then spatial joined each point to 2020 Census Tracts.

California Department of Education (CDE) Ed-Data/Data Quest

Years Available:
2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

*The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in statewide physical school closures in February/March 2020 followed by the widespread implementation of distance learning during the 2020–21 academic year. The California Department of Education (CDE) recommends caution when comparing discipline data across academic years. For this dataset, 2021 data reflects a low number of students being suspended during distance learning.

Why are these variables important to measure?

Suspension is the temporary removal of a student from school that results when that student is alleged to exhibit certain behaviors: use of violence, involvement in a robbery, intentional damage to school property, among others (1).

Over the past several years, it has become increasingly apparent that suspension has harmful and inequitable effects on students. Suspension results in loss of learning and is even correlated with increased likelihood of incarceration (2). Additionally, research has shown that students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and students of color–especially Black students–are more likely to be suspended than their peers (2).

Increased recognition of the harms of suspension has led the California legislature to pass reforms for school discipline. For instance, between 2013 and 2019, the state government prohibited suspensions for low-level offenses (e.g. disruption, defiance of a teacher) among students in kindergarten through eighth grade (2).

Written by Tannah Oppliger

(1) National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. (2022). “California Compilation of School Discipline Laws and Regulations.” U.S. Department of Education. https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/sites/default/files/discipline-compendium/California%20School%20Discipline%20Laws%20and%20Regulations.pdf

(2) Thurmond, T., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2021). “State Guidance for New Laws on Discipline.” California Department of Education. https://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/el/le/yr21ltr0819.asp

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