School Suspension Rates and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Educators from across the nation gathered at the White House on July 22 to discuss school discipline and expand the conversation about replacing suspensions and expulsions with positive alternatives that keep students in school and learning. The number of children suspended from schools is staggering – over 3 million each year – and research demonstrates that school suspension marks the start of the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” that leads many youth into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools across the country play a major role, resulting in out-of-school suspension, expulsion, or even arrest for minor offenses. In some states, police officers are widely stationed in schools, and routinely arrest and transport youth to juvenile detention centers. Data from our incarcerated population demonstrate the outcome of these lost opportunities for learning and removal from the classroom: over two thirds of males in the federal prison system do not have a high school diploma.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline disproportionately affects the most at-risk youth, particularly students of color and students with disabilities. Data from the Department of Education reveals that African-American students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. While constituting only 18 percent of students, black children account for over 45 percent of those suspended more than once.

As part of the summit, the Department of Education released two maps to demonstrate the scale of the problem, included below. Especially striking is the second map, revealing that across the country high proportions – often over 20 percent – of students with disabilities have been suspended at least once.

All Districts, One or More Suspensions
Percentage of students suspended one or more times, by school district (2011-12)
One or More Suspensions with Disabilities
Percentage of students with disabilities suspended one or more times, by school district (2011-12)

Educators and policy-makers also reported districts that are making positive changes to disrupt the School-to-Prison Pipeline. For example, LA Unified was the first district in the country to ban suspensions for “willful defiance” – activities including refusing to turn off a cellphone or failing to follow school dress code – in favor of alternative approaches to discipline that result in fewer lost classroom hours. Discussion made clear teachers’ need for increased resources, training, and flexibility in the classroom, both to choose appropriate disciplinary measures, and to avoid escalating situations that lead to suspension or arrest.

Explore Suspension Rates by Race

The map below uses data provided by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies to display suspension rates by state in 2011-12. Click each state to view a breakdown of suspension rates by students’ race.

Tracking Police Killings Jan-July 2015

As law enforcement fatalities have come under increased scrutiny I’ve been looking at data compiled by the Guardian’s The Counted project. This is a crowdsourced effort to gather a comprehensive of killings at the hands of police and other law enforcement agencies, in the absence of any mandatory, official recording.

Below is a interactive, time-lapse map of police killings based on The Counted data. The map covers January 1 to July 27, 2015. Use the play/pause button to control the time slider.

Here’s a new map, created using data from The Guardian’s The Counted project tracking police killings in the US in 2015.

Tools:, with additional credit to OpenStreetMap contributors.

The State of Current Reporting

The only official recording of police killings is under a voluntary program administered by the FBI. In this system, law enforcement agencies may choose to report “justifiable homicides,” defined as “the killing of a felon in the line of duty.”

More soon…

I’ll be working on exploring this rich, powerful, and unsettling dataset further in the coming weeks. For updates follow me on twitter @EdHarrisDotMe, and check out @theCounted project as well.

Update July 29:

Thanks to the Guardian US and The Counted for sharing.

Poverty Data from SAIPE 2013

The US Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) provides annual estimates at the state, county, and school district level of income and poverty statistics for the administration of federal programs. Prepared using Community Commons mapping tools, this map offers a quick look at this data, an update from the last ACS survey. As we’ve seen before, poverty remains concentrated in the South, Appalachia, and more broadly across the Southwest.

Poverty Map SAIPE 2013

Somewhere Special

Mark your special place. An early experiment using Open Street Map data with Mapbox Studio.

Holyoke Medical Center

Can’t guess where? Holyoke Medical Center, where our son was born last week.

Data © OpenStreetMap contributors. Licensed under the Open Data Commons Open Database License. Design © Mapbox. Licensed according to the Mapbox Terms of Service.