Suspended Progress 2017: An update on the state of exclusionary discipline in Virginia’s public schools

In 2016, the Legal Aid Justice Center released Suspended Progress, an issue brief on the state of exclusionary discipline in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s public school system for the 2014-2015 academic year. The results were appalling: hundreds of thousands of students excluded from school for weeks and months at a time, with the vast majority of suspensions issued for non-violent, relatively minor misbehavior. Students with disabilities and students of color were disproportionately suspended and expelled at two-and-a-half and threeand-a-half times the rate of their white and non-disabled peers, respectively. Tens of thousands of suspensions were issued to very young students in elementary grades. These results from the 2014-2015 school year also represented an increase in the Virginia suspension rate after four years of a downward trend. When we reviewed the disciplinary outcome data reported by local school divisions to the Virginia Department of Education for the 2015-16 academic year, we were hoping the prior year had been an aberration. After doing our homework, our hopes were dashed: Virginia schools continue to issue a huge number of out-ofschool suspensions, posting a slight increase from even the 2014-2015 totals.