CONCORD, N.H. >> Students are far less likely to be expelled from school in New Hampshire than elsewhere, according to a new report, while the frequency with which students are suspended out of school is more in line with national trends.
From 2010 to 2014, the national expulsion rate of 2.7 percent was more than 100 times higher than New Hampshire's rate, which was .02 percent for middle and high school students, the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire found. The study's authors said Wednesday they don't know why there is such a big difference and urged policymakers and education officials to use the data to delve more deeply into the issue.
New Hampshire schools were closer to the national averages in other forms of exclusionary discipline. For example, 10.1 percent of secondary school students nationally were suspended out of school in 2011-12, compared to 9 percent in New Hampshire.
There were considerable differences, however, in how often individual schools suspended students. The rate of in-school suspension at urban middle and high schools was 14 percent, or twice as high as the rate for non-urban schools. Students in urban schools were given out-of-school suspensions three times as often as their peers at urban schools.
"There's something going on in urban schools and their likelihood to turn to these practices that is very real," said researcher Douglas Gagnon.
David Ryan, assistant superintendent in Manchester, said all schools in his district have implemented programs that use alternatives to suspension and positive reinforcement to encourage better behavior. In middle schools, suspension is a last resort unless the student's behavior is dangerous, coming after counseling, meetings with the principal and other steps.
In high schools, students are rewarded for good citizenship, and assistant principals work hard to maintain positive relationships with students, he said.
"The most important function of any behavior management program is the founding of relationships between students and staff," he said. "Typically, students who have ties to trusted adults in school don't want to let those people down, and if they do, they still rely on them for guidance."
Similar to national trends, Carsey researchers found that male students, minorities and students who are from low-income families, have disabilities or are homeless, were more likely to experience "high exclusionary discipline:" five or more days of out-of-school suspension or expulsion.
Suspension and expulsion rates began to rise in the 1980s and 1990s as schools adopted "zero-tolerance" polices that mandated discipline for certain offenses. But research since then has shown that students subjected to such discipline are more likely to drop out or become involved with the juvenile justice system, and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has identified disparities in its use by race and disability.
Last summer, the department organized a White House summit on decreasing the use of such discipline.