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Wyoming School Discipline Data Shows Racial Disparities

Emory Maiden via Flickr Creative Commons

Students who identified as racial minorities received a greater number of the state’s out-of-school suspensions in the last school year, according to Wyoming Department of Education data.

Students who identify as white account for 80 percent of Wyoming’s student population, but they received just 71 percent of the state’s out-of-school suspensions. Meanwhile, Native American students—who make up just 3 percent of Wyoming students—received 10 percent of suspensions. Hispanic students made up 13 percent of the total student population and received 15 percent of the out-of-school suspensions.

“Minority students don’t misbehave at any higher rates than any other students misbehave,” said Wyoming ACLU Director Linda Burt. “What we do know is that they are treated differently and they are disciplined differently.”

And Burt says the consequences of this unequal treatment can be far-reaching.

“Statistically, what we see with these children that are suspended at higher rates is they go into the juvenile justice system at higher rates, they go into the adult criminal system at higher rates,” Burt said. “They are much more likely not to finish high school, and we know what kind of problems that causes problems on a long-term basis.”

Racial disparities in school discipline are not unique to Wyoming. Nationally, black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but receive 42 percent of suspensions. 

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