School Suspension and Expulsion


Racial disproportionalities persist in use of exclusionary discipline

Suspension and expulsion, also called “exclusionary discipline,” result in a loss of learning time for excluded students. Students who have been suspended or expelled are more likely to fail courses, drop out of high school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system, any of which can limit future educational and employment opportunities. Some research suggests that schools with higher suspension rates may have worse performance even among students who are not suspended.

In King County and elsewhere, racial bias impacts which students are excluded: analysis by the Community Center for Education Results shows that in South Seattle and South King County, Black students are more likely to be excluded than White students for the same infractions.


In King County school districts in 2017:

  • The highest discipline rate  was 4.5%, in Renton School District.

  • The lowest discipline rate  was in Bellevue School District, at 0.3%.

The visualization presented on the website of Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), enables users to see, by school district, the percent of students who have been suspended and expelled each school year. You can explore differences between school districts by exclusion type, behavior, and student subgroup.

  • To find King County school districts, go to “Select ESD,” click “(All)” to de-select; then select Puget Sound Educational Service District 121. You will see data for King County school districts plus a few others in Pierce County.

  • Choose the type of disciplinary action by going to “Select Exclusion Type.”  The choices are any, expulsions, long-term suspensions, and short-term suspensions.

  • Causes of disciplinary actions are detailed under “Select Behavior.” To look at overall rates, start with “All Behavior Types.”

  • The panel below the Discipline Rate chart will then display disciplinary data for King County school districts and others in Puget Sound Educational Service District.

You can also use the slider to filter by district demographics (box on right), which include total enrollment, percent low-income students, percent English Language Learners, and percent students in special education. In 2017, for example…

  • Looking only at districts where at least 50% of students qualified for free or reduced-priced school meals (low-income), Renton School District had a higher discipline rate than average for Washington State, 4.5% compared to 3.5%. This translates into approximately 180 more students excluded than if the rate was average. On the other hand, Highline School District had a lower discipline rate at 1.9%, or about 360 fewer excluded students than if they had the average rate.


Only 2 districts (Tukwila and Highline) had student populations where at least 20% of students were English Language Learners. Highline’s discipline rate was below state average, while Tukwila’s discipline rate was similar to the state average.

Click on the District Detail tab and select a school district to see discipline rates by race/ethnicity and 7 different sub-groups of students. You can also look at each district’s Composition Index for these groups. The composition index measures whether a group of students is suspended at a rate proportional to its representation in the total student population. A Composition Index greater than 1 indicates a group is disproportionately impacted by exclusions. For example, in 2017…

  • In the Federal Way School District, special education students were excluded at a rate of 7.7% compared to 4.0% of all students, for a Composition Index of 1.92.

In Seattle Public Schools, 6.8% of Black/African American students were disciplined compared to 2.5% of students overall, with a composition index of 2.74. The composition index for Black students is higher in Seattle than in Washington state (2.11), indicating higher disproportionality than the state as a whole. For more information about exclusionary discipline and Black students in South Seattle and South King County, see the Road Map Project.


In Northshore School District, 0.5% of female students were disciplined, compared to 1.4% of all students, for a composition index of 0.38.


Notes & Sources

Source: Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Data and Analytics: