Why do students get suspended or expelled in LAUSD?

When schools suspend or expel a student, they report it to the state. They report two things that are then made public in data – 1. The reason for the suspension/expulsion and 2. the ethnicity of the student who received the suspension/expulsion. The reasons for expulsion are defined in the California EdCode, which is both super-descriptive and wildly haphazard (more on that another time). 

This week, I will look into this data a little deeper in LAUSD. 

A note on the data: according to the data source:

Although a student may have committed multiple offenses as part of a single incident; each student is only counted once per incident for which they were suspended or expelled. Students are counted more than once if they were suspended or expelled multiple times for different incidents.

So, let’s look at expulsions first:


Schools seem more likely to expel students for drugs or violence events than for other types of incidents. But I don’t think that’s what is happening. I simply think that weapons on campus happens less often. I have a hypothesis here: I think that, for many administrators, drugs and weapons on campus are relatively equal in their seriousness, but I am also guessing that students don’t believe that drugs on campus is as serious. This kind of misunderstanding between the two parties might create the kind of difference you see above. 

The data for expulsions has a very small sample size, so you can’t say much with the information. 


When it comes to out-of-school suspensions, violence without injury is the most common reason for action, followed by violence with injury. It makes me curious if “violence without injury” is really this common, or if schools are lumping things into the category for other reasons.


Here we see something interesting. While the “other defiance” category was not frequently used for suspensions and not at all used for expulsions, it is the second most common reason for in-school suspension. I am very curious what other defiance looks like now that “willful defiance” has been banned as a reason for suspension. 

So far, I am kind of disappointed with the lack of descriptiveness of the data. These categories are so broad that they leave a lot of room for subjective analysis, but little room for objectivity. For example – do schools treat dealing drugs on campus with the same degree of consequence as having drugs in a backpack that is discovered in a search? Unfortunately the data does not say. 

Still, the dataset does have some interesting patterns that I will be exploring this week. Tomorrow: ethnicity and suspensions/expulsions.