Study: Black Students Most Likely to Suffer Chronic Truancy

According to a recent study that looked at schoolchildren in California, African-Americans are more likely to be chronically absent and face higher suspension rates than other students.

The findings looked at racial separation within the school system and discovered that from an early age the presence of racial disparity is seen, from access to high-level classes and more qualified teachers to discipline measures.

African-American students in California were found to be four-times more likely to be chronically truant than any other grouping, including homeless children.

The report found 37% of African-American students in the state to be truant, or 73,000 students. That rate was about 15 points over the rate for all students, and higher than any other subgroup. Over 33,000 of those students were found to be "chronically truant," over two and a half times the amount of white students in that category in the state.

Almost 90% of elementary students who missed 36 days of school or more were from low-income homes.

The report came out after the Department of Education released information stating that black children were more likely to be suspended in US public schools than other children. That statistic began in the preschool setting.

Research has shown that truancy beginning in preschool is associated with a higher chance of dropping out.

The attorney general's report from California discovered similar findings. Black children in California were twice as likely to miss school for suspensions and were also found to face three times more suspensions than white students.

"The largest racial disparities are in this category," UCLA civil rights researcher Daniel Losen said. "It's a catch-all for all minor offenses."

Losen is hoping the report will inspire Governor Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would end suspensions for "willful defiance."

On a national level, President Barack Obama has asked schools to downscale "overzealous" discipline practices.

For the sweeping attendance gap, the California report states that "African-American children experience many of the most common barriers to attendance — including health issues, poverty, transportation problems, homelessness, and trauma — in greater concentration than most other populations."

According to state laws, truancy is defined as being absent, or at least 30 minutes late for school without a valid excuse three times within the school year. Those students who miss at least 10% of the school year are considered "chronically truant."

The report offered data according to race and income level for the first time in the state.

"The astounding facts presented in this report shine a light on the need to adopt policies and practices that address chronic absenteeism and other issues that impede our young people's path to opportunity and success," Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson and Education Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, leaders on a minority empowerment task force, said in a joint statement.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris hopes the report will help the state decide to adopt a policy that would track children's absences on an individual basis, something he has been fighting for for years. California is one of only a few states who does not currently have this system in place.

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