Exclusionary Discipline

Exclusionary discipline describes any type of school disciplinary action that removes or excludes a student from his or her usual educational setting. Two of the most common exclusionary discipline practices at schools include suspension and expulsion. Typically used to punish undesired behaviors, deter similar behavior by other students, and promote more appropriate behavior, studies have shown that such practices may result in adverse outcomes for the student and community including increasing student risk for involvement in the justice system.

Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study on How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement

(2011) CSG Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University

This statewide study followed nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students for at least six years. Among its findings are that the majority of students were suspended or expelled at least once between 7th and 12th grade, and that these students are more likely to repeat a grade level, drop out of school, and/or become involved with the juvenile justice system. The study also reports that nonwhite students and students with specific disabilities disproportionately received disciplinary actions that remove them from class.

Opportunities Suspended: The Devastating Consequences of Zero Tolerance and School Discipline Policies

(2000) The Civil Rights Project and the Advancement Project

This report, written in consultation with attorneys, psychiatrists, researchers, educators, and children’s advocates, provides a national review of school discipline and Zero Tolerance policies. It scrutinizes the impact that the Zero Tolerance approach to discipline is having on American children.

Fact Sheet: School Discipline and The Pushout Problem

Dignity in Schools Campaign

This two-page fact sheet presents data on rates of suspension and expulsion, data on associated dropout and incarceration, and discussion of the impact on education and school climate.

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion

(2013) American Academy of Pediatrics

This policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics includes discussion of the rationale typically used for implementing out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, disadvantages and costs of the practices, preventive strategies and alternatives to out-of-school suspension and expulsion, as well as recommendations for the role of the physician in relation to the practices.

Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis

(2010) The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and the Equity Project at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

This report seeks to answer the issues of efficacy and fairness in the use of out-of-school suspension, the usage of which has increased as a form of discipline. The higher use of out-of-school suspension in part reflects the growth of policies such as "zero tolerance," an approach to school discipline that imposes or uses removal from school for a broad array of school code violations.  The report also examines differences in frequency of suspension across race/ethnicity and gender.

School disciplinary systems: Alternatives to suspension and expulsion

(2006) The Equity Project at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

This paper examines what is known about school exclusion as a disciplinary strategy, as well as if exclusionary practices are effective methods for promoting safe and effective school climates or if there are effective alternatives that can keep schools safe without removing students from the opportunity to learn.

The achievement gap and the discipline gap: Two sides of the same coin?

(2010). Gregory, A., Skiba, R., & Noguera, P.

This article synthesizes research on racial and ethnic patterns in school sanctions and considers how disproportionate discipline might contribute to lagging achievement among students of color. It further examines the evidence for student, school, and community contributors to the racial and ethnic patterns in school sanctions, and it offers promising directions for gap-reducing discipline policies and practices.

Patterns of Exclusionary Discipline by School Typology, Ethnicity, and Their Interaction

(2010) Noltemeyer, Amity; Mcloughlin, Caven S.

This study examines data from 326 Ohio school districts to investigate school typology (i.e., urban, rural, suburban) and student ethnicity as they relate to exclusionary discipline. Researchers found that African American students were disproportionally represented as recipients of exclusionary discipline, major urban very-high-poverty schools utilized these practices most frequently, and disciplinary disproportionality was most evident in major urban districts with very-high-poverty. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Overrepresentation of African American Students in Exclusionary Discipline:  The Role of School Policy

(2007) Pamela Fenning, Jennifer Rose

The overrepresentation of ethnic minority students, particularly African American males, as recipients of exclusionary discipline has been consistently documented during the past three decades. The authors posit that teachers’ fear of losing classroom control may contribute to the disproportional labeling and removal of minority students for disciplinary reasons.  As such, the authors recommend substantial revisions to discipline policies consistent with models of positive behavior support.

The Economic Effects of Exclusionary Discipline on Grade Retention and High School Dropout

(2013) The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

This study examines the impact of school discipline contact on students’ risk for grade retention and school dropout using a statewide sample of 7th grade students tracked through their 12th grade year. Results indicate that school discipline is associated with approximately 4,700 grade retentions per year in the state of Texas. The delayed workforce entry related to grade retention has an effect of over $68 million for the state, including $5.6 million in lost tax revenue. Given the higher discipline rate for minorities, these costs disproportionately affect them. Further, the additional year of instruction costs the state nearly $41 million dollars. For each year an individual student is retained the effect on the net social surplus exceeds $23,000. Results also indicate that school discipline relates to a 29% increase in high school dropout. These additional dropouts account for an economic effect of $711 million per year.

School Discipline Support Initiative Positive Approaches to School Discipline Reference Guide

School Discipline Support Initiative Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Reference Guide

School Discipline Support Initiative Restorative Practice Reference Guide

School Discipline Support Initiative Supportive School Discipline Initiative Reference Guide

Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Colorado and Nationally

This report provides an analysis of the school-to-prison pipeline and strategies employed by Padres & Jovenes Unidos and Advancement Project to help eliminate the pipeline.

Stopping Out-of-School Suspensions: A Guide for State Policy

(2012) National Opportunity to Learn Campaign

This guide provides state leaders with a systemic approach for stopping suspensions – including guiding questions, action steps, and promising examples of state level solutions.

Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts

(2012) Texas Appleseed

Based on a survey of 11 school districts in Texas, this report documents the high price tag attached to public schools' use of out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and alternative schools and spending on school policing. The report aims to encourage a dialogue about redirecting resources to less costly, more effective approaches to student discipline.

Health Impact Assessment of School Discipline Policies:  A Health Impact Assessment of Status Quo Discipline, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and Restorative Justice Policies in Three California School Districts

(2012) Human Impact Partners

This report examining discipline policies in the Los Angeles, Oakland, and Salinas school districts finds that harsh suspension and expulsion policies disproportionately impact students of color and lead to worse health outcomes, crime and violence, drug use, and mental health issues. The report also finds that policies designed to keep students in school and help them understand and navigate life’s challenges and the consequences of their behavior can lead to improved health outcomes for students and communities.

Changes in Exclusionary Discipline Rates and Disciplinary Disproportionality over Time

(2010) Noltemeyer, Amity; Mcloughlin, Caven S.

This investigation utilized current district-level data from public schools in the state of Ohio to replicate previously documented findings of disciplinary disproportionality, to examine changes in overall use of exclusionary discipline over time, and to examine changes in disciplinary disproportionality over time. Results confirm that African American students continue to be overrepresented as recipients of exclusionary discipline.

School Discipline and Academic Success: Related Parts of Maryland’s Education Reform

(2012) Maryland State Board of Education

This report examines school discipline and long term exclusionary discipline practices in Maryland and concludes that students need to remain in school in order to become college and career ready. The State Board’s proposed regulatory actions focus on keeping students in school as well as keeping students who are suspended or expelled (as a last resort) connected to the school in a manner which maintains for them the opportunity to become college and career ready.

Alternatives-to-Suspension Fact Sheet: Outcomes of Out-of-School Suspension

(2011) Minnesota Department of Education

This resource presents data and outcomes associated with out-of-school suspension in Minnesota.

Exclusionary Discipline in Multnomah County Schools: How suspensions and expulsions impact students of color

Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families & Community

This report, developed in collaboration with district staff, parents, students, and other community members, shares the results of a two-year project analyzing exclusionary discipline data from six large school districts in Multnomah County. The report finds that fighting is the most common reason students are excluded from school and that students of color – particularly African American, Latino, and Native American students – face more frequent suspensions and expulsions than their white peers.

Reclaiming Students: The educational and economic costs of exclusionary discipline in Washington State

Washington Appleseed, TeamChild, the ACLU of Washington and Garvey Schubert Barer

This report focuses on the impact of state laws and regulations and school district policies and practices that remove students from school due to behavior or violations of school codes of conduct. The report examines the use and impact of school exclusionary practices to uncover the costs to individual students and the state economy, and to determine how these practices might be amended to increase access to education for Washington State students.