Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?

The Center for Civil Rights Remedies has released an unprecedented analysis of school discipline data for every district in the nation, estimating 18 million days of lost instruction in just one year due to exclusionary disciplinary practices. Roughly 3.5 million students were suspended in 2011-12 -- enough to fill all of the stadium seats for the first 45 Super Bowls ever played.  Asking whether the nation is closing the discipline gap for racial and ethnic minority students and students with disabilities who are disproportionaly subjected to exclusionary disciplinary practices, the report, Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?, shares both good and bad news.

Good News

  • Significant disparities persist but nationally, there appears to be a slight reduction in suspension rates for Blacks, Latinos, and Whites at the secondary level and the racial discipline gap may be narrowing between Blacks and Latinos and their White peers.
  • Many large school districts have drastically reduced suspension rates and narrowed the racial gap.

Suspension Rates over Time by Race/Ethnicity: K-12

Source:  Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap? (Center for Civil Rights Remedies)

Bad News

  • The use of suspension and the racial gap appears to be increasing in elementary schools.
  • Although schools are legally prohibited from suspending students with disabilities for behavior that is caused by their disability, students with disabilities are often suspended at rates two to three times higher than their non-disabled peers. This suggests that schools may be failing to meet their civil rights obligations to provide a free and appropriate public education to all students regardless of their disability status.

Suspension Rates of Students with Disabilities at Both Elementary and Secondary Levels, Further Disaggregated by Race/Ethnicity and Gender

Source:  Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap? (Center for Civil Rights Remedies)


How well is your school district addressing discipline disparities?

You can explore suspension rate data analyzed in the report with the Center's web tool, District level data are available on the site that can be disaggregated by school level (elementary or secondary) and student demographic group (e.g., English Learner status, disability status, gender).


Closing the School Discipline Gap: Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusion

Daniel Losen, Director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, also recently published, Closing the School Discipline Gap: Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusion. With contributions by Robert Balfanz, Jamilia Blake, Dewey Cornell, Jeremy D. Finn, Thalia González, Anne Gregory, Daniel J. Losen, David M. Osher, Russell J. Skiba, and Ivory A. Toldson, the book:

  • Demonstrates the academic and social costs of disproportionate and excessive exclusionary disciplinary practices
  • Investigates the school policies and practices that feed the pipeline to prison, particularly for Black and Hispanic youth
  • Shares evidence-based interventions for reducing the use of exclusionary discipline
  • Bridges research to practice by presenting replicable actions federal, state, and district policymakers can make to address discpline disparities


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