March 21, 2016

It Just Isn’t Right!!: Part II – Suspensions and Expulsions by Race and Ethnicity in Wisconsin

In Part 1 of this blog, we described the data on suspensions and expulsion by race/ethnicity in the United States. But, what about Wisconsin? Unfortunately, rates of suspensions and expulsions in Wisconsin are more disparate than they are nationally. According to 2013-14 data from the Department of Public Instruction:

    • Only about 4% of all students were suspended, but 17% of black students were suspended — 4 times higher than the average and more than 8 times the rate for white students.
    • American Indian students, students of two or more races, and Hispanic/Latino students were also suspended at higher rates than the average.
    • Conversely, Asian students, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students, and white students were suspended at rates that were lower than the average for all students.

suspensions by race etniicty wisconsin

Some similar trends appear in the data on expulsion, most notably the disparities between expulsion rates for black students compared to their classmates. However, the expulsion data disparities are even more pronounced than the differences in suspension rates, with black students being expelled almost 10 times more often than white students. Not all groups show the same patterns for suspensions and expulsions, though. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students were suspended at a rate lower than the rate for all students, yet they were expelled more often. Conversely, students of two or more races were suspended more often than white students, but were expelled at a similar rate to white students.

expulsions by race wisconsin


Although suspension and expulsion are meant to punish students for unacceptable behavior, it can actually push kids toward involvement with the criminal justice system in a process known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Youth who have been removed from school miss out on valuable learning experiences, and often end up with more free time and less supervision. Add in what we know about youths’ brain-based tendencies toward impulsivity, risky behavior, and a focus on short-term rewards, and it’s easy to see how an expelled student could end up in trouble with the law. Given the high rates of students of color who are removed from school and the dangers of the school-to-prison pipeline, it is especially important to consider ways to keep all kids in school and on the path to success.

For more data on this and other indicators of child and family wellbeing, visit the Kids Count Data Center.

by Karissa Propson