Federal Agencies Promote Supportive School Discipline in Webinar Series

Supportive School Discipline Webinar Series Increases Awareness and Understanding of the Pipeline to Prison

Nicholas Read is a Research Analyst with the American Institutes for Research and a Technical Assistance Specialist with OJJDP’s State Training and Technical Assistance Center (STTAC).

Each year, more than 3 million students are suspended from school for disciplinary reasons, the majority of whom are African American and/or students with a disability.1 Many students are suspended multiple times in the school year, and many of those suspensions are a result of the discretion of school staff.2 Data show that out-of-school suspensions not only result in a loss of important educational time but are highly correlated with having to repeat a grade, dropping out of school, and being at increased risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system.1,2 In light of a growing body of evidence, many argue that many of today’s school discipline practices do far more harm than good and put the very futures of our Nation’s youth at risk. 1,2

To address this disturbing trend, in July 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the creation of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. The collaboration is aimed at identifying and developing alternatives to school disciplinary policies and practices that push youth out of school and many times into the justice system, also known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” The importance of continued commitment to reforming our Nation’s school discipline practices was once again brought to the forefront of the Nation’s attention by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and the White House’s January 2013 plan to protect children and communities and its call to make schools safer, in part, by identifying and sharing best practices on school disciplinary policies and equitable implementation.

To increase awareness and understanding of the issues around the school-to-prison pipeline and provide practical examples of policies and practices that combat the issue by maintaining school and classroom safety while ensuring academic engagement and success for all students, the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services began the “Supportive School Discipline (SSD) Webinar Series” in January 2013. Webinars in the series are intended for school district superintendents and allied staff, teachers, and support staff; school climate teams; student support personnel; school resource and security officers; probation/parole officers, law enforcement, judges and court administrators, and legal personnel; and youth, family members, and other community stakeholders dedicated to improving school discipline practices and stemming the pipeline.

To date, the series has featured seven Webinars focused on topics such as understanding current school discipline philosophies, policies, and practices, and emerging alternatives; addressing truancy and absenteeism; infusing restorative justice principles in schools; exploring the evolving role of school resource officers (SROs) in supportive school discipline; the use of youth courts as a discipline practice, and using trauma-informed school discipline policies and practices to improve school climate. The Webinars featured national experts in education, school discipline, and juvenile justice, from renowned researchers, teachers, and school administrators to juvenile court judges, school resources officers, and community advocates. A complete archive of each Webinar in the Series, with recordings, presentations, and additional resources, is available online at http://www.juvenilejustice-tta.org/events/ssdwebinarseries.

The Webinar series is facilitated by three national training and technical assistance (TTA) centers:

  1. OJJDP’ State Training and Technical Assistance Center (STTAC)
  2. The National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk’s (NDTAC’s) Supportive School Discipline Communities of Practice (SSD COP)
  3. The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE)

Each TTA center is available to researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders nationwide for additional resources and support in transforming school discipline practices, so youth stay in school and out of the justice system. The Federal Agencies and TTA providers involved believe that this series and other efforts can make a difference in transforming school discipline to support success for all students and end the school-to-prison pipeline.

Additional Resources:

For more on the impact of school discipline practices on student involvement with the justice system, see Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement (Council of State Government’s Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University, 2012) and Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School (The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project, 2012).


[1] Losen, D. J., & Gillespie, J. (2012). Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School. Los Angeles, CA: The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project. Available online at http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/upcoming-ccrr-research/losen-gillespie-opportunity-suspended-2012.pdf.

[2] 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, NY: The Council of State Governments Justice Center. Available online at https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Breaking_Schools_Rules_Report_Final.pdf

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