Indicator 4 | Suspensions and Expulsions

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Photo of student gym outfits hung on a row of hooks. Two hooks are empty.Updated, April 2013

Indicator 4 addresses the issue of disproportionality in the number of students with disabilities who are suspended or expelled from school, as compared with the suspension/expulsion rates of students without disabilities. The indicator also addresses concerns that students with disabilities from particular race or ethnic groups may be suspended or expelled disproportionately more (or less) than other students with disabilities not from those race or ethnic groups.

To address the problem of disproportionality, which is well-documented, a State has to know it has a problem—in other words, that there’s a significant discrepancy in its rates of suspension and expulsion for various groups of students. Indicator 4 is intended to gather the data necessary to identify whether such significant discrepancies exist in a State’s disciplinary practices.

Indicator 4 reads as follows:


Rates of suspension and expulsion:

A. Percent of districts that have a significant discrepancy in the rate of suspensions and expulsions of greater than 10 days in a school year for children with IEPs; and

B. Percent of districts that have:

(a) a significant discrepancy, by race or ethnicity, in the rate of suspensions and expulsions of greater than 10 days in a school year for children with IEPs; and

(b) policies, procedures or practices that contribute to the significant discrepancy and do not comply with requirements relating to the development and implementation of IEPs, the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and procedural safeguards.  [20 U.S.C. 1416(a)(3)(A); 1412(a)(22)]


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Resources to Support Data Gathering in This Indicator Area

Guidance documents on Indicator 4.

A technical assistance guide to calculating severe discrepancy and Indicator 4. 

How are we doing?
What’s the current status on improving significant discrepancies in the rates of suspensions and expulsions by race and ethnicity? What are the data telling us? Read this summary from 2011.

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Resources to Support Addressing Disproportionality in Disciplinary Practices

State definitions of “significant discrepancy.”
A 7-page brief from Project Forum, from July 2007.

Standards needed to improve identification of racial and ethnic overrepresentation in special education.
A 2013 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Under what circumstances can schools suspend or expel students with disabilities?
Visit NICHCY and find out the nitty gritty of what IDEA’s discipline procedures allow.

Why does this indicator require data be collected on students’ race and ethnicity?
The disproportionate discipline of minorities in school has been well-documented over the years and persists as an area of concern. Collecting data on the race and ethnicity of students with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school gives schools and OSEP a means by which to identify significant discrepancies in how students are being disciplined. Read more in this Education Rights Center’s 2-page discussion.

Need help with how to crunch your data?
Visit the Data Accountability Center. The Center provides guidance on reporting data about children with disabilities served under IDEA.

Don’t let suspensions and expulsions lead to increased drop out rates.
The National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities (NDPC-SD) supports states in assisting local education agencies to increase school completion rates and decrease dropout rates among students with disabilities.

Use positive behavioral interventions and supports to deal with behavior problems.
The OSEP-funded National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports was established to address the behavioral and discipline systems needed for successful learning and social development of students. The Center provides capacity-building information and technical support about behavioral systems to assist states and districts in the design of effective schools.

Learn more about dispute resolution and mediation.
The Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) works to increase the nation’s capacity to effectively resolve special education disputes, reducing the use of expensive adversarial processes. CADRE works with state and local education and early intervention systems, parent centers, families and educators to improve programs and results for children with disabilities

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