Over -representation of African -Americans in suspensions in Metro /Nashville Public Schools

Andrew Shuler Pelham, Tennessee State University


African-American students are suspended at approximately twice the rate of Caucasian students in Metro/Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), across the state, and nationally. The purpose of this study was to determine if recent initiatives taken by MNPS to understand poverty would have any impact on reducing the suspension rate of African-American students. MNPS held a district-wide preservice training related to understanding poverty. This preservice training was conducted by Dr. Ruby Payne, a world leader in studying poverty and how it impacts education. Demographic data for the district support the fact that many of the African American students enrolled in MNPS were also students living in poverty. Many educators in the district hoped that by understanding poverty better, achievement gaps and discipline gaps could be closed. This training was conducted immediately prior to the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year. Demographic and suspension data reported on state-issued report cards was compared from the 2004-2005 school year to the 2005-2006 school year for all regular schools in operation in MNPS during both years of the study. The study sought to find if there was a significant difference in the suspension rates of African American students. The study examined this data for Title I, non-Title I, elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as for the entire district. The results of this study demonstrate that there were no statistically significant decreases in the suspension rates of African American students for the district, or for any of the subgroups. A statistically significant increase was found in the suspension rate of African American students in Title I schools. In many instances the gaps between the suspension rates of African American students and Caucasian students widened. Based on the findings of this study, it is recommended that further research include longitudinal studies, as well as examination of the types and lengths of suspensions. Finally, more qualitative studies should be conducted to examine schools of similar size and demographic breakdown to determine why some schools had little or no gaps in suspension rates, while others had very large gaps in suspension rates.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|School administration

Recommended Citation

Andrew Shuler Pelham, "Over -representation of African -Americans in suspensions in Metro /Nashville Public Schools" (2007). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3259039.