Hawaii student suspensions at US average, not worst

HONOLULU — A report with erroneous data has been corrected to show student suspensions in Hawaii were not the nation’s worst, officials said.

The Hawaii Department of Education mistakenly combined suspension days for every offense, rather than by student, before the information was sent to the federal government and publicized by the American Civil Liberties Union in June, the Star-Advertiser reported .

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The report was corrected and shared Thursday to say there were 24 suspended days for every 100 students, not the previously reported 41 days, officials said.

“With the recalculation, Hawaii falls within the national average and is not the worst in the nation as was reported,” Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said. “The good news is the data is much better than the original notice.”

Errors were discovered when the department generated data from the 2015-16 school year for the U.S. Civil Rights Data Collection, officials said. The federal government requests information every two years, but this was the first time they asked for the number of days suspended per 100 students.

“The problem with the data was that it was double counting and in some cases triple counting the days when it was uploaded,” Kishimoto said.

Following the correction, the number of suspended days for students with disabilities and for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders was still at a higher rate compared to other states, officials said.

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The number of suspended days for students with disabilities was corrected to 50 days, but still surpassed the national average of 44 days, school officials said. The number of days that Pacific Islanders were suspended fell by 45% in the corrected numbers.

“Our overarching goal is to maintain a safe and harmonious environment,” said Heidi Armstrong, assistant superintendent for student support services. “We know that suspensions alone don’t change behavior.”

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