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OCDSB 2019-2020 Suspension Data

OCDSB 2019-2020 Suspension Data
Posted on 11/25/2020
OCDSB 2019-2020 Suspension Data

The review of suspension data is an essential step in the OCDSB’s commitment to creating a culture of caring and social responsibility.

Our Safe Schools strategy is built on promoting positive student behaviour by building relationships, establishing a code of conduct, ensuring bullying prevention initiatives are in place and employing a progressive discipline approach. 

Analyzing suspension data informs this work and helps to identify strategies to ensure our practice is bias aware and free from discriminatory outcomes. This examination allows for the establishment of quantifiable estimates of inequities in the education system as it relates to student discipline.

Identity Matters

Last June, the OCDSB shared the results of our Valuing Voices - Identity Matters! student survey, held in late 2019. This was the first such survey conducted by an Ottawa-based school board since the introduction of the Ontario Anti-Racism Act (2017) and Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism (2018). 

The OCDSB is now using this information to inform our commitment to human rights and equity. This data is helping to deepen our understanding of trends and patterns, which will allow the District to take action to address structural racism and systemic barriers.

The OCDSB annually reports on student suspension data. This is the first year that the suspension data has been examined using identity-based data, which allows for analysis of additional groups of students based on Indigenous identity, race, gender identity, and disability as reported in the student survey.

For many years, students, parents, and community partners have raised concerns that racialized students, students of diverse gender identities, and students with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the suspension data and often face increased risk of disciplinary action compared to other students. The data supports these concerns and indicates that some student populations are suspended at a disproportionate rate. 

Findings from this report shine a light on some of the inequities that exist in our system in relation to disciplinary policies and practices. They reinforce our call to action as a system to eliminate the systemic barriers and biases that prevent all students from reaching their full potential, particularly students who identify as Indigenous, Black, and who have been minoritized (a term which includes racialized, religious, 2SLGBTQ+ and people with a disability).

Next Steps: Creating Safe Spaces and Conditions for Learning

Recognizing the importance of the early years in setting the foundation for positive learning experiences, the Ontario Ministry of Education recently introduced a new regulation (O. Reg.440/20) which removes the principal’s discretion to suspend students enrolled in junior kindergarten to grade 3 for activities listed in subsection 306(1) of the Education Act (referred to as discretionary suspension).

Funding has been allocated to school districts to help support the implementation of these changes. In the OCDSB, this work includes collaboration across multiple departments, including Learning Support Services, Program and Learning, and Safe Schools. For example, the Early Learning Team in LSS is continuing to provide coaching and mentoring support to Kindergarten teachers, ECEs and EAs to promote positive student behaviour. Examples include professional learning sessions focused on the factors that impact behaviour (e.g., implicit bias, traumatic experiences); specific programming (e.g., Mindmasters 2); and implementing the Third Path framework to further promote sense of belonging, physical and emotional safety, and self-regulation amongst students.

In addition, both the OCDSB Strategic Plan 2019-2023 and the Indigenous, Equity and Human Rights Roadmap outline some of the key work being undertaken by the District to promote more safe and inclusive learning spaces for students including:

  • a review of the Safe Schools Policy, (including policies and practices associated with police involvement in schools);
  • the establishment of foundational mandatory professional learning for school and District staff in Indigenous knowledge, Diversity and Inclusion Fundamentals, Unconscious Bias, anti-racism/anti-oppression and human rights;
  • implementation of a staff census to better understand the representativeness of the OCDSB workforce and identifying strategies to increase representation of minoritized groups in leadership roles and those directly impacting student learning and well-being;
  • redesigning course content (e.g., Social Studies, History and Geography; Grade 9-12 English) to include and represent Indigenous, Black and minoritized histories perspectives and ways of knowing;
  • introduction of Indigenous and Black Graduation coaches at specific sites to promote and support student success and pathways to graduation;
  • expansion of leadership and networking opportunities for Indigenous, Black and minoritized youth.
  • Staff will continue to work with the community and system to identify additional strategies and supports to help address these issues of inequity

Read the full report

Summary of Suspension Data Analysis and Finding

Overall results

Results for 2019-2020 are comparable to those for the past few years, even for the partial year reporting. Specifically:

  • Approximately 2% of OCDSB students were issued a suspension during the 2019-2020 school year, a rate that is consistent with the previous two years for the same time period (September to March);
  • Suspension rates continue to be higher in the secondary panel than they are in elementary;
  • Nearly two-thirds of suspensions issued were single-day suspensions; and
  • Close to three-quarters of students who were suspended last year received only one suspension.

Mandatory and discretionary suspensions

For the first time, mandatory and discretionary suspensions were examined separately. Mandatory suspensions involve more significant safety concerns, including reasons such as: weapons-related offenses, trafficking drugs, physical assaults that cause bodily harm requiring treatment by a medical practitioner, robbery, extortion, sexual assault, repeated bullying, and reasons that are motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate. Results of this analysis yielded the following:

  • Nearly 90% of suspensions issued to students in 2019-2020 were of a discretionary nature;
  • Suspensions of a mandatory nature were predominantly issued to students in intermediate and senior grades; and
  • The majority of suspensions lasting for six days or more were of a mandatory nature.

Suspension duration

Approximately two-thirds (67%) of suspensions issued were single-day suspensions (1,591 of 2,374). Suspensions that last for six days or more are predominantly of a mandatory nature.

Single or multiple suspensions

Most students who were issued a suspension in 2019-2020 were suspended only once (71%). Conversely, almost one-third of suspensions were recurrent (29%; 484 of 1,674).

Who was suspended?

The OCDSB evaluated suspension data using available student records and additional information collected through the identity-based data survey. 

Looking at the data in the context of disproportional representation indicates that students who self-identify as Indigenous, boys, students with special education needs (excluding gifted), English language learners, and students residing in lower income neighbourhoods are more likely to be suspended. 

Within the subset of students who participated in the Valuing Voices survey, students who identified as First Nations, Métis, Black, Middle Eastern, Indigenous (Race), boy or man, gender diverse, or with a disability (i.e., Autism, Learning, Developmental, Mental Health, and/or Addiction) were disproportionately represented in the suspension data. 

  • In the context of race, disparities were greatest for Indigenous students (3.5), followed by Middle Eastern students (2.3) and Black students (1.9), with likelihood of suspension between 2 and 3.5 times higher than other students who responded to the Valuing Voices survey.
  • The suspension rate for students with special education needs was 2.5 times higher than the overall student population, and these students were 4 times as likely to receive a suspension compared to all other students.
  • Students who self-identified as having a disability(ies) on the Valuing Voices survey had a suspension rate 2.5 times higher than the overall survey population, and were 4 times as likely to receive a suspension as compared to students who self-identified as not having disability. The largest disparities were recorded for students reporting Addiction(s) (10.5), followed by Mental Health (6.1), Another disability not listed (5.4) and Developmental (5.4).
  • Students who self-identified as Gender Diverse (i.e., a gender other than Boy/Man or Girl/Woman) on the Valuing Voices survey were twice as likely to be suspended, both compared to all students (1.91) and all other students (1.94).
  • English language learners are 1.9 times more likely to receive a suspension as compared to all other students.
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