03/06/2012 02:54 pm ET Updated Mar 06, 2012

Black Students Are Suspended At Rates 3 Times Higher Than Other Races In Los Angeles Schools

If you are a black student in Los Angeles, you are almost three times more likely to be suspended than if you are any other race, according to new data from the Department of Education.

The data compares about 85 percent of U.S. students from cities across the country. Here's how the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) compared to other districts:

Los Angeles: 9% black enrollment; 26% of suspensions.

San Diego: 11% black enrollment; 24% of suspensions.

New York City: 40% black enrollment; 46% of suspensions.

Chicago: 45% black enrollment; 76% of suspensions.

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy agreed that the disproportionate number of suspensions is a problem, but said that the situation is improving as the district tracks the number internally and instructs schools to limit suspensions, the Los Angeles Times reports.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the national suspension disparities "alarming." “Education is the civil rights of our generation," he said. "The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise,” Think Progress reports.

Duncan added that the numbers do not "alleg[e] overt discrimination in some or all of these cases," HuffPost reports.

However, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, of LA nonprofit Community Coalition, disagrees. "Disciplinary policies are racially profiling African American students," she told the Times. "It is not that African American students are lazy, unmotivated or not smart. These students are being pushed out of schools."

Russell Skiba, an education professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, offered a similar analysis to HuffPost. Contrary to common misconception, said Skiba, his own research shows that the suspension rates do not mean that students of color are simply misbehaving more.

Last week, a Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, established by California Assembly Speaker John Perez at the request of committee chair Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, met in Los Angeles for its third hearing on ways to improve the lives of young men on color in the state.

The committee faces the grim statistic that young men of color have the lowest life expectancy rates, highest unemployment rates and lowest graduation rates of any population in Los Angeles, according to nonprofit Liberty Hills.

Still, in a press release, Liberty Hills reports that the committee knows what works and is building on recent successes such as an increase in college prep courses in LA high schools, as well as school-based Gay Straight Alliances that have reduced harassment of young gay men.

Advocates for minority students in LA are also celebrating the city's recent decision to remove $250-plus tickets for students who are late to class. Students and families had rallied for removal of the fines, which civil rights advocates said targeted black and Latino students.