(The Center Square) – The percentage of African-American students and other minority groups at Tacoma Public Schools who were suspended or expelled has significantly increased since the pandemic. TPS wants to reverse this trend.
The district released the statistics during a board meeting on Oct. 27. African-American students from grades six through nine failed to reach the district’s goal of 90% of students without suspensions or expulsions last school year.
African-American students in grade six had 82% complete the school year without being suspended or expelled. Notably, that is an improvement over the 2018-2019 school year, when only 68% of black youths completed school without suspension or expulsion.
For black youths in eighth and ninth grade, the percentages were both 75%. A 15% variance from the goal of 90%.
The board meeting had deafening silence as the statistics were revealed. Not only did the percentage of black youth fail to reach the 90% goal from grade six through nine. Pacific islanders in the sixth grade were at 86%; hispanic and pacific islander students in eighth grade were around 86% with white students at 89%; and hispanic, pacific islander and Native American students in the ninth grade were below the 90% goal.
Tacoma Public Schools did not provide The Center Square a comment about solutions to the problem. However, Laura Allen, the director of the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative, presented the data to the school board and brought up work that is being done in Tacoma schools to ensure that more students can attend uninterrupted.
Allen said members of the Tacoma Whole Child Initiative look at the data from each school within the district and find disparities and make action plans from the information they gather.
Over the past summer, all administrators and staff were trained in restorative practices as a way to improve the numbers. Social-emotional learning curriculum at the elementary level was adopted into Tacoma Public Schools several years ago.
More recently, a secondary social-emotional learning curriculum was adopted with staff and administrators being trained on the subject.
Grant funding was also utilized by the district to improve support for students struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma and social skills, according to Allen.
Tacoma Public Schools is the third largest school district in Washington state. African-American students make up 13% of the student demographic, hispanic students make up 22%, and pacific islander and Native American student groups are below 4% of the student demographic.