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Students with disabilities in Mississippi are missing out on valuable classroom instruction time due to suspensions. Suspensions are especially common for black students with disabilities, who miss nearly three times as many days as their white peers, according to a new report.

During the 2015-16 school year, 113 days of school were missed due to suspensions for every 100 black students with disabilities enrolled in a Mississippi school, compared to 44 days for white students with disabilities. That is slightly less than the national average, but represents a widening in the disparity between the suspension rates for the state’s black and white students with disabilities over the previous school year. Mississippi was also one of 20 states that identified at least one district for disproportionately disciplining students with disabilities during both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. Experts believe these numbers may be even higher due to a lack of district-level reporting and specificity in the numbers reported.

The authors of the report say these statistics are concerning because lost instruction time leads to “huge inequities in the opportunity to learn.” Frequent suspensions can also put students with disabilities on a path to the juvenile justice system. Students with some disabilities, like emotional disabilities, are three times more likely to be arrested by the end of high school than their peers. Experts say one of the main reasons students with disabilities are suspended or end up in jail is because teachers aren’t trained to understand or manage the behavior of some students with disabilities, according to the 2013 report by the PACER Center.

This story about special education in Mississippi was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

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