Nova Scotia

Halifax Regional School Board releases student suspension report

The chair of the Halifax Regional School Board says a new staff report looking at school suspensions that fall under the board's supervision show "a disproportionate number of black students" are being suspended.

Report found for the first semester of this year, 22.5% of students suspended were black

A Halifax Regional School Board report found the total number of student suspensions fell by about one-third between the first semester of last year and this year. (iStock)

A new Halifax Regional School Board report looking at school suspensions show "a disproportionate number of black students" are being suspended, board chairwoman Melinda Daye said.

"When you look at the number of students from the African Nova Scotian community who identified themselves as [being of] African descent, black students, the ratio is too high," said Daye, who's also the  African Nova Scotia school board representative. 

"There's a disproportionate number of black students who have been suspended." 

Total numbers of suspensions are down

There were 2,398 student suspensions in the first semester of the 2014-2015 school year, the report says.

In the 1,418 cases where students self-identified their race, 18 per cent of the students were of African descent while those students only made up about seven per cent of the overall student body.

For the same time period in 2015-2016, there were 1,646 suspensions.

Students of African descent accounted for 22.5 per cent of the suspensions in the 1,038 cases where students self-identified their race, but represented 7.8 per cent of the student body.

The report compares the first semesters of the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years and includes data such as the number and length of student suspensions and what race they self-identify as. It's important to note that not all students have self-identified their race.

More students self identifying their race

"The percentage of people who chose [to] self-identify continues to increase. It currently stands at 89 per cent of all HRSB students. It would have been lower in the Sept. 2014-Feb. 2015 time period," spokesperson Doug Hadley said in an email.

Asked what was fuelling the disproportionate numbers, Daye pointed to things such as poor communication between students and teachers, students and principals, and students with other students.

The report also found the number of total suspensions fell between the two periods from 2,398 to 1,646, a decrease of 31 per cent.

"It's an improvement in student behaviour. It's an improvement in the child and school's communication, child and home communication," said Daye.