Wyoming ranks fourth in the nation for the number of students its schools refer to law enforcement and courts. That’s according to a data analysis by The Center for Public Integrity.
The investigative news organization looked at Department of Education data from 2011-2012 school year. In that one school year, Wyoming schools sent school discipline problems on to law enforcement agencies at a rate of about 12 per 1,000 students. That’s twice the national average.
Reporter Susan Ferriss wrote a story published along with the data. She says the conversation around this issue can be controversial.
“You do have a lot educators and teachers that have a low tolerance for disruption—and you can understand why,” says Ferriss. “The question is, though, how are these disruptions being dealt with, and what are these referrals for?
Ferriss says what is most concerning is how certain student groups are singled out.
“There are two striking realities you see in the data—which are racially disproportionate referral numbers and special needs,” says Ferris. “Across the country, the special needs students are referred in wildly disproportionate numbers.”
In Wyoming, where black students make up just 1.5 percent of the population, these students accounted for more than 4 percent of referrals to law enforcement. While students with disabilities make up 15 percent of Wyoming students, they accounted for more than 26 percent of referrals.