African Americans, Latinos and sexual minorities are among the groups that are "disproportionately" punished with suspension for behavior problems in public schools, according to a study released Thursday by the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative.

The study, headed by Indiana University Professor Russell Skiba, says that suspensions increase the possibility of dropping out of school and push problem students toward the judicial system.

At the presentation of the study, which was conducted over three years and participated in by 26 nationally recognized experts and attorneys, Skiba said that the high presence of African Americans among the students punished for bad conduct was expected.

"But this new research is also saying that it's also Latino students, it's also students with disabilities, it's also girls of color," he said. "LGBT students may be at risk for increased discipline. These things have a big effect on achievement."

Researchers found that Latino students have a 2.23 times greater chance of being suspended from school for bad conduct than whites.

The study cites figures from the Education Department, according to which during the 2009-2010 academic year there were 3 million students suspended in K-12 nationwide.

The study says that there is no evidence to support the premise that "bad kids" should be removed from the classroom to make it possible for others to be able to learn.

It recommends preventive programs that foster a relationship of trust and support among students and educators to reduce conflicts. And when breaches of discipline do occur, they can be dealt with using strategies that are focused on solving problems rather than simple punishment, the study says. EFE