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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #17-80
November 1, 2017
Contact: Robert Oakes
E-mail: communications@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces
Fifth Year in a Row of Declining Student
Suspensions and Expulsions

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that the number of students suspended and expelled in California public schools has declined for the fifth year in a row, showing that efforts by educators to improve attendance by using more engaging instruction and effective discipline are making significant progress.

From the 2011-12 school year to 2016-17, suspensions declined by a remarkable 46 percent, meaning there were 327,857 fewer suspensions in 2016-17 than in 2011-12. (See Table 1).

Similarly, expulsions decreased by 42 percent, dropping from about 9,800 to 5,700, a difference of about 4,100 students. (See Table 3).

The figures come from data collected by the California Department of Education (CDE) and are the most detailed and comprehensive statistics in the nation. The data, which covers both 2015-16 and 2016-17, provides detailed information that includes suspension rates of numerous student groups, including males, females, Latinos, whites, African-Americans, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families.

“This new information demonstrates that efforts by educators all over the state to find better ways to engage students in learning and address behavior problems are paying off in the form of greatly reduced suspensions and expulsions and that translates into more students in class,” said Torlakson, a former science teacher and cross country coach. “The bottom line is that students have to be in class to learn, to succeed, to develop their potential, and to fulfill their dreams.”

The information, which covers all the state’s more than 10,000 public schools, identifies schools and districts with high and low rates of suspensions, providing school communities with the information they need to make changes.

Since 2011-12, after Torlakson started his first term as State Superintendent, CDE began collecting and reporting much more detailed data about suspension and expulsions. Reporting data was recently updated and detailed even more.

“Information is power,” said Torlakson. “Since we started collecting and publicizing this data, educators, parents and community members have worked hard to find ways to keep students in school while maintaining a safe environment.”

The new suspension and expulsion numbers are available at the CDE DataQuest Web page and allow for much more in-depth analysis. For example, the new data shows that the suspension and expulsion rate for African American and foster youth face disciplinary action at higher rates than other student groups, even though both groups have experienced significant decline.

The suspension rate for white students has decreased from 4.7 percent to 3.2 percent, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points (See Table 4). Meanwhile, the suspension rate for African American students has decreased from 13.7 percent to 9.8 percent, a decrease of 3.9 percentage points (See Table 4). The suspension rate for Hispanic or Latino students has decreased from 6.1 percent to 3.7 percent, a decrease of 2.4 percentage points (See Table 4).

"Disparities in suspension rates among student groups are disturbing and needed to be addressed", Torlakson said.

“We have much work to do. We need to do more, and we need to do better,” said Torlakson.

Under Torlakson’s leadership, CDE has initiated forums and workshops to make districts, administrators, and teachers aware of successful alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, including “restorative justice” programs that help students understand the nature and consequences of their actions.

In some programs, after an incident of student misconduct, affected parties decide how to repair harm and to do so in a way that meets the victim’s needs, holds offenders accountable, and promotes school safety.

Other strategies underway in California schools include teaching life skills and emotional control. The CDE launched its Behavioral Intervention Strategies and Supports Web page as an additional resource.

Additional strategies may also be funded by the $2.5 million in equity grants approved by the Legislature The CDE will distribute these grants to school districts and county offices of education to improve test scores, graduation rates, and disciplinary actions for student groups that are lagging.

Legislation effective in January 2015 placed limits on suspensions for “willful defiance,” a category in the state Education Code that had been used broadly to discipline students. Willful defiance became an issue after CDE data revealed that students in certain ethnic groups, particularly African Americans, experienced a disproportionate percentage of expulsions and suspensions under that single category.

Since 2011-12, the total number of overall defiance-only suspensions have decreased from about 335,000 to 78,000, a decrease of nearly 77 percent (See Table 2). The rate for African Americans dropped from about 62,000 to 13,000, a decline of nearly 80 percent.

The new CDE data will be included in the upcoming release of the California School Dashboard to help assist specific school districts to identify areas of improvement and address these needs in their Local Control Accountability Plan, as needed.

Data tables are shown below:

Table 1: Total Suspension Counts by Ethnicity
Ethnicity 2011–12 2016–17 Difference Percent Difference

African American

134,064

67,945

-66,119

-49.3%

American Indian or Alaska Native

9,212

4,425

-4,787

-52.0%

Asian

14,319

8,196

-6,123

-42.8%

Filipino

5,932

2,974

-2,958

-49.9%

Hispanic or Latino

379,686

203,024

-176,662

-46.5%

Pacific Islander

4,817

2,326

-2,491

-51.7%

White

143,818

76,838

-66,980

-46.6%

Two or More Races

13,801

13,415

-386

-2.8%

Not Reported

4,053

2,702

-1,351

-33.3%

Statewide Total

709,702

381,845

-327,857

-46.2%

Table 2: Defiance-Only Suspension Counts by Ethnicity
Ethnicity 2011–12 2016–17 Difference Percent Difference

African American

62,032

12,927

-49,105

-79.2%

American Indian or Alaska Native

4,564

1,084

-3,480

-76.2%

Asian

5,603

1,336

-4,267

-76.2%

Filipino

2,356

508

-1,848

-78.4%

Hispanic or Latino

184,621

43,196

-141,425

-76.6%

Pacific Islander

2,059

432

-1,627

-79.0%

White

65,998

15,630

-50,368

-76.3%

Two or More Races

6,091

2,641

-3,450

-56.6%

Not Reported

1,755

488

-1,267

-72.2%

Statewide Total

335,079

78,242

-256,837

-76.6%

Table 3: Expulsion Counts by Ethnicity
Ethnicity 2011–12 2016–17 Difference Percent Difference

African American

1,336

798

-538

-40.3%

American Indian or Alaska Native

158

87

-71

-44.9%

Asian

273

126

-147

-53.8%

Filipino

80

60

-20

-25.0%

Hispanic or Latino

5,476

3,326

-2,150

-39.3%

Pacific Islander

59

23

-36

-61.0%

White

2,151

1,046

-1,105

-51.4%

Two or More Races

181

161

-20

-11.0%

Not Reported

44

30

-14

-31.8%

Statewide Total

9,758

5,657

-4,101

-42.0%

Table 4: Total Suspension Rates by Ethnicity
Ethnicity 2011–12 2016–17 Percentage Point Difference

African American

13.7%

9.8%

-3.9

American Indian or Alaska Native

9.8%

7.4%

-2.4

Asian

1.8%

1.1%

-0.7

Filipino

2.4%

1.4%

-1.0

Hispanic or Latino

6.1%

3.7%

-2.4

Pacific Islander

7.5%

5.0%

-2.5

White

4.7%

3.2%

-1.5

Two or More Races

5.4%

3.6%

-1.8

Not Reported

3.9%

2.7%

-1.2

Statewide Total

5.7%

3.6%

-2.1

# # # #

Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, November 1, 2017
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