A new report from the California Attorney General's office measures truancy rates across race and socio-economic levels, finding that black elementary school students were "chronically absent" four times as much as the entire school population.
The report determines that poverty and suspensions affect the numbers. For example, black students missed twice as many days due to suspension as their white counterparts, and in first and second grade, the report found that African American students were three times as likely to be suspended.
- In California, truancy is defined as being absent or arriving over 30 minutes late to class without a valid excuse three times in a school year. Those who miss 10% of the year without a valid excuse are considered "chronically truant."
The report states, "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." In fact, these students were deemed chronically truant more than any other subgroup, including homeless students.
UCLA civil rights researcher Daniel Losen told the Associated Press that he hopes the report will sway California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill stopping suspensions for "willful defiance" — according to Losen, the bill has already been passed by legislators and is just waiting on Brown.
Willful defiance suspensions falls under the umbrella of zero-tolerance punishment, which President Barack Obama has already advised against.