Reforming School-Based Discipline
The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:
- In 2011-2012, nearly 3.5 million public school students were suspended out of school at least once (Morgan, et al., 2014). Recent estimates suggest that one in three students will be suspended at some point between kindergarten and 12th grade (Schollenberger, 2015).
- In 2015, UCLA’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies published a study examining the “discipline gap,” or the inequalities in discipline received by different subgroups of students (Losen, Hodson, Keith, Morrison, & Belway, 2015). For both primary and secondary education, the study ranked each state according to the difference between the percentage of Black children suspended and the percentage of White children suspended. In this study, Missouri ranked last among primary school-aged children:14.3% of Black students were suspended in 2011-2012 compared to 1.8% of White students. Missouri also had the highest suspension rate for Black elementary school students in the country (Losen et al., 2015). When looking at secondary-school-aged children, Missouri ranked 47th out of 50 states:20 more Black secondary school students than White students were suspended in Missouri per 100 students enrolled in 2011-2012 (Losen et al., 2015).
- As reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, nearly one out of five of the 3,989 total suspensions in the St. Louis school district last school year was for ‘insubordination/disrespect,’ an inherently subjective category that can include a student stomping his foot or putting her head down on her desk (Crouch, 2015).
- Several studies suggest suspending students does not necessarily allow the remaining students to thrive as one might expect.
- One such study found that, when controlling for poverty and race, schools that used suspension infrequently had higher achievement rates (Skiba, Chung, Trachok, Baker, Sheya, & Hughes, 2014).
- Similarly, another large and rigorous study found no academic benefits in schools with higher suspension rates (Fabelo, Thompson, Plotkin, Carmichael, Marchbanks & Booth 2011).
- Notably, the Denver Public Schools made a concerted effort to improve the school climate systemically by implementing restorative practices that focus on rehabilitation and reconciliation and a community-based model of discipline that deemphasizes zero-tolerance policies in favor of the empowerment of students to solve problems. The schools witnessed a decrease in suspension rates, a narrowing in the discipline gap, and an increase in test scores at all grade levels in nearly every subject for six consecutive years (Gonzalez, 2015).
These findings prompted the Commission to draft a recommendation that calls for changes to school policies, practices, and leadership as well as teacher training with the hope that this call will help eliminate excessive disciplinary exclusion and thereby improve the short- and long-term wellbeing of children.
To that end, the Commission issues the call to action below.
Support alternative interventions
Consider ways to support schools in change how students are disciplined.
Change your environment
Build trauma-informed communities and spaces.
Suggested Reading List
Crouch, E. (2015). Rash of elementary school suspensions in St. Louis area are a pipeline to problems. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved from https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/rash-of-elementary-school-suspensions-in-st-louis-area-are/article_5efb0738-fda9-5532-b48b-eaae17f5f659.html
Losen, D., Hodson, C. Keith, M. A., Morrison, K., & Belway, S. (2015). Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap? K-12 Racial Disparities in School Discipline.
- Crenshaw, K, Ocen, P., & Nanda, J. (2015). Black girls matter:Pushed out, overpoliced, and underprotected. African American Policy Forum and Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies. Retrieved from:https://www.law.columbia.edu/null/download?&exclusive=filemgr.download&file_id=613546
- Crouch, E. (2015). Rash of elementary school suspensions in St. Louis area are a pipeline to problems. STL Today. Retrieved from https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/rash-of-elementary-school-suspensions-in-st-louis-area-are/article_5efb0738-fda9-5532-b48b-eaae17f5f659.html
- Fabelo, T., Thompson, M.D. Plotkin, M., Carmichael, D., Marchbanks, M.P., & Booth, E.A. (2011). Breaking schools’ rules:A statewide study of how school discipline relates to students’ success and juvenile justice involvement. New York:Council of State Governments Justice Center.
- Ginsburg, A., Jordan, P., & Chang, H. (2014). Absences Add Up:How School Attendance Influences Student Success. Attendance Works. Retrieved from https://www.attendanceworks.org/wordpress/wp-content/ uploads/2014/09/Absenses-Add-Up_September-3rd-2014.pdf.
- Gonzalez, T., (2015). Socializing schools:Addressing racial disparities in discipline through restorative justice. In Losen, D.J., (Ed.). Closing the School Discipline Gap:Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusion. New York:Teachers College Press.
- Lindberg, S. M., Hyde, J. S., Petersen, J. L., & Linn, M. C. (2010). New trends in gender and mathematics performance:a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 136(6), 1123. Retrieved from:https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bul/136/6/1123/
- Losen, D., Hodson, C. Keith, M. A., Morrison, K., & Belway, S. (2015). Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap? K-12 Racial Disparities in School Discipline.
- Losen, D. (2015). Closing the School Discipline Gap:Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusion. New York:Teachers College Press.
- Marchbanks III, M.P., Blake, J.J., Booth, E.A., Carmichael, D., Seibert, A.L. & Fabelo, T. (2015). The economic effects of exclusionary discipline on grade retention and high school dropout. In Losen, D.J., (Ed). Closing the School Discipline Gap:Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusion. New York:Teachers College Press.
- Morgan, E., Salomon, N., Plotkin, M., & Cohen, R. (2014). The school discipline consensus report:Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. New York:Council of State Governments.
- Okonofua, J. A., & Eberhardt, J. L. (2015). Two Strikes Race and the Disciplining of Young Students. Psychological science, 26(5), 617-624.Retrieved from:https://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/04/08/0956797615570365.abstract
- Shollenberger, T.L. (2015). Racial disparities in school suspension and subsequent outcomes:Evidence from the national longitudinal survey of youth. In Losen, D.J. (Ed.) Closing the School Discipline Gap:Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusion. New York:Teachers College Press.
- Skiba, R.J., Chung, C.G., Trachok, M., Baker, T.L., Sheya, A., & Hughes, R.L. (2014). Parsing disciplinary disproportionality:Contributions of infraction, student, and school characteristics to out-of-school suspension and expulsion. American Educational Research Journal. 51(4). 640-670. doi:10.3102/0002831214541670.