Administrators in the Alpine School District are angry about a national report that they say uses slanted statistics to imply that district's rate of suspensions for black students is inordinately high.
A study issued by the National Coalition of Advocates for Students, a group based in Boston, says that the Alpine District has one the nation's highest disparities in suspensions of black students compared to whites.The group said their investigation showed blacks in Alpine are 13 times more likely to be suspended than whites, while the national suspension rate for blacks is twice that of whites.
Alpine Superintendent Steven Baugh said the group apparently used 1985-86 figures for their study, and in that year four of the district's 22 black students were suspended. That means that about 5 percent of the black population was suspended, while only 1.5 percent of white students were suspended, but the total number of blacks in the district is so small that the numbers are deceiving.
"They see that we've suspended 20 percent of our blacks and it looks racially discriminatory. Any suspension of a black student gives you a very high suspension rate," he said. "If you suspend one, then you've got a 5 percent suspension rate. It makes us look discriminatory, and we're not. We treat them all the same."
During the 1987-88 school year, one of 24 black students was suspended.
The national report was based on an analysis of biennial data published by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which looked at figures from 3,378 districts throughout the country.
The report said that Alpine's 424 Hispanic students were suspended at a rate of 1.42 percent.
There are about 35,000 students in the district as a whole.
Baugh said the report has gotten a lot of local media attention, and he thinks the study has skewed some numbers to make the district look bad.
"To quote percentages does put us in an unfavorable light unfairly. I know the principals base their decisions (about whether to suspend students) on the behavior and not the skin color. I don't care if it's only three blacks, I want them treated fairly. It's an unfair use of statistics."
School Board President Jan Lewis said administrators are very conscious of their responsibility to treat all students equally.
"We have so few black students that whenever anything whatsoever happens to one, it looks like a greater percentage than it is," she said. "We have an ongoing concern that there's equity for all students. This report may have been blown out of proportion."