The good news in the Muscogee County School District's out-of-school suspensions report is that the number of students suspended has decreased. The bad news is that black students still account for a disproportionate percentage of those suspensions.
MCSD's out-of-school suspensions decreased from 4,877 (15.3 percent) in 2010-11 to 4,434 (13.9 percent) in 2011-12 and 4,350 (13.3 percent) in 2012-13. MCSD’s enrollment of 31,402 in 2012-13 was 57 percent black, 29 percent white and 14 percent other races, but 79 percent of the out-of-school suspensions were black students.
During the Muscogee County School Board's work session Monday evening, Cathy Williams, the nine-member board’s lone county-wide representative, praised the district for collecting the data and reporting it. She concluded, however, “Something unacceptable is happening.”
Board chairman Rob Varner of District 5 cautioned, “Let’s not take this data without further disaggregation and assume something nefarious is going on or some targeting. I just don’t think this is a fair way to lead this conversation.”
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Williams countered, “I’m looking at data, and data doesn’t lie.”
Interim superintendent John Phillips offered some perspective: “In the larger scheme, we have to look at student performance too. There’s a direct correlation between students not doing well academically and students finding themselves in discipline situations.”
Regardless, board member Naomi Buckner of District 4 called for intervention: “We need to be aggressively trying to get some kind of plan to address this.”