School District Grapples with Discipline Policies

In New Orleans, suspension and expulsion rates vary dramatically, as do school policies concerning what constitutes a suspendable offense. Some schools suspend only for serious offenses like weapon or drug possession; others have suspended students for smacking gum or singing too loudly.

Suspension rates at the city's charter schools ranged from 0 percent to 60 percent during the 2010-11 school year, according to state data. However, schools self-report their suspension and expulsion rates. In the past, discrepancies and errors have been found in some of the data.

Across the country, school suspension and expulsion rates have soared in recent decades, with Louisiana posting particularly high numbers. Louisiana schools expel students at five times the national rate, and they issue out-of-school suspensions at twice the rate of the rest of the country, according to a 2010 report by Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.