Schools work­ing to­ward op­tions

But spe­cial-needs stu­dents' sus­pen­sion rate re­mains dis­pro­por­tion­ate

Tulsa World - - Metro&region - By sa­muel Hardi­man

Spe­cial-needs stu­dents in Tulsa Pub­lic Schools are sus­pended dis­pro­por­tion­ately as com­pared with tra­di­tional stu­dents — they make up more than a third of to­tal stu­dents sus­pended but are less than 20 per­cent of the stu­dent body.

TPS sus­pended 3,111 stu­dents dur­ing the 2017-18 school year. Of those, just more than 2,000 were tra­di­tional stu­dents and more than 1,000 were stu­dents with spe­cial needs.

The data mir­ror a na­tional trend seen in ur­ban dis­tricts — spe­cial-needs stu­dents, who are of­ten male stu­dents of color, are sus­pended at a much higher rate than their nondis­abled peers. This dis­par­ity has ex­isted at least for the past three years, which is when TPS be­gan more closely scru­ti­niz­ing the data it re­ports to the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Dis­trict of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged that the trends are con­cern­ing and said that de­spite the districtwide dip in sus­pen­sions, they re­main wor­ried about in­equities in sus­pen­sions among dif­fer­ent groups. They stressed that TPS is fo­cus­ing on train­ing its novice spe­cial-ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers, mak­ing sure teach­ers know how to deal with stu­dents ex­pe­ri­enc­ing trauma in the class­room and ques­tion­ing the dis­trict's own prac­tices to make sure stu­dents are be­ing served ap­pro­pri­ately to their needs and cul­ture.

“We are just now, in the last two years — and re­ally this year

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