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The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights revealed data Tuesday from the 2013-2014 school year showcasing out-of-school suspensions have decreased by nearly 20 percent from the 2011-12 school year, since more schools found alternative methods to deal with “non-violent student behavior.” The Obama administration has claimed it’s good news that only 2.8 million K-12 students received one-or-more out of school suspensions in 2013-14 nationwide.

However, the administration found a major area of concern: absenteeism. For the first time, the Civil Rights Data Collection report examined absenteeism, finding that 6.5 million students, or 13 percent of all students, were chronically absent from schools in 2013-14, meaning they missed at least 15 days of school.

Education Secretary John King calls the problem “very worrisome” and the administration needs to make a “call for action” about the growing epidemic. The report found that 20% or more of American Indian or Alaska Native (26%), Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (25%), black (22%), multiracial (21%), and Latino (20%) high school students are chronically absent. 20%  of all English learner high school students are also chronically absent in the 2013-14 school year.

The study finds that black elementary school students are 1.4 times as likely to be chronically absent as white elementary school students. Interestingly, chronic student abseteeism tended to be higher in schools where the majority of teachers were also frequently absent.

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