Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI)

In July 2011, the Center for State Government’s Justice Policy Center released “Breaking School Rules,” a research study that examined discipline in Texas and emphasized the importance of keeping children in school and learning. The study demonstrated that suspension and expulsion are not only overused but also inappropriately used to discipline children in school. The research showed that African American and Hispanic students and children with particular educational disabilities who qualify for special education were suspended and expelled at especially high rates. The report also found that when students are suspended or expelled, the likelihood that they will repeat a grade, not graduate, and/or become involved in the juvenile justice system increases significantly. In response to the study, the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched a collaborative initiative between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (ED) to stem the school-to-prison pipeline and advance the use of positive discipline and learning policies and practices in schools nationwide.

The initiative plans to:

  1. Build consensus among key stakeholders about what changes are required to support good discipline.
  2. Collaborate on research and data collection that are needed to determine what the field knows and does not know about school discipline and its impact, and what future research should study.
  3. Issue joint ED–DOJ guidance to help schools improve their understanding of and compliance with civil rights laws and disciplinary options that lead to positive education and post-schooling outcomes.
  4. Increase capacity, awareness, and knowledge among educators, justice personnel, and other stakeholders about evidence-based and promising student discipline policies and practices through training and technical assistance (TTA) and the provision of information and resource materials.
  • General Info
  • Strategies & Practices
  • Tools
  • On The Ground
  • Other
General Info: 

US Department of Education's School Climate and Discipline Resources

This webpage features a guidance package that includes:

  • Dear Colleague letter
    Guidance letter prepared with our partners at the U.S. Department of Justice describing how schools can meet their obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
    download filesEnglish [PDF, 587] | En español [PDF, 644K]

  • Guiding Principles [PDF, 1MB] Prólogo de Secretario Arne Duncan En español [PDF, 314K]
    Guidance document which draws from emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and related action steps that that can help guide state- and locally controlled efforts to improve school climate and school discipline.

  • Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources [PDF, 1MB]
    Index of the extensive Federal technical assistance and other resources on school discipline and climate available to schools and districts.

  • Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations
    Document describing an online tool that catalogues the laws and regulations related to school discipline in each of the 50 States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico states and compares laws across states and jurisdictions. You can access the description of the Compendium here [PDF, 674K], and you can access the online tool.

  • Overview of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative [PDF, 266K]
    Outline of recent federal efforts on these issues through the interagency Supportive School Discipline Initiative.

Strategies & Practices: 

The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative

The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative provides practical, evidence-based recommendations for reducing disparities in discipline in our nation’s schools. It makes available the following briefing papers:

  • Discipline Disparities Series: An Overview
  • How Educators Can Eradicate Disparities in School Discipline: A Briefing Paper on School-Based Interventions
  • Eliminating Excessive and Unfair Exclusionary Discipline in Schools: Policy Recommendations for Reducing Disparities
  • New and Developing Research: Disparities in Discipline
  • Three Supplementary Papers:
    • Myths and Facts about Racial Differences in Behavior
    • Can De-Biasing Strategies Help to Reduce Racial Disparities in School Discipline?: Summary of the Literature
    • Discipline Disparities: Myths vs. Facts

Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations

This Compendium is designed to help state and local policymakers as well as school-level personnel better understand the current school discipline practices in our country.  It provides information on school discipline laws and administrative regulations for each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico effective as of May 2013. You can access the description of the Compendium here [PDF, 674K]

Supportive School Discipline Webinar Series

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), is hosting the Supportive School Discipline (SSD) Webinar Series. The Series is designed to increase awareness and understanding of school disciplinary practices that push youth out of school and many times into the justice system, and provide practical examples of alternative approaches that maintain school safety while ensuring academic engagement and success for all students. In particular, during the first half of 2014, webinars are taking an indepth look at the school discipline guidance package.

Provided an overview of each component of the School Discipline Guidance Package including, the dear colleague letter, Guiding Principles document, Federal Directory of School Climate and Discipline Resources and Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations.

Provided a detailed review of the obligation schools have under the Civil Rights Act to administer discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, and national origin

Explained the importance of fostering a positive school climate and using evidence-based prevention strategies, such as tiered supports, to promote positive student behavior.

Explained  the importance of developing clear, appropriate, and consistent expectations and consequences to address disruptive student behaviors, including a focus on adopting an instructional approach to school discipline and removing students from the classroom only as a last resort

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs’ website puts youth at the center, features numerous resources:

  • Information about evidence-based practices, including the ability to search for practices that can help to prevent specific risk factors (e.g., peer rejection, dropping out of school) and increase protective factors (e.g., good relationships with peers, social competencies and problem-solving skills)
  • Information about evidence-based practices, including the ability to search for practices that can help to prevent specific risk factors (e.g., peer rejection, dropping out of school) and increase protective factors (e.g., good relationships with peers, social competencies and problem-solving skills)
  • Tools for tracking federal funds by zip code as well as funding agency, department, and area of interest (e.g., positive youth development)
  • Monthly newsletters that include feature articles, current announcements, and other information related to programming for youth
  • Extensive resources on topics regarding youth: youth suicide prevention, trafficking of youth, school climate, children of incarcerated parents, youth mental health, preventing youth violence, preventing gang involvement, youth disaster preparedness, runaway and homeless youth, substance abuse, LGBT youth, reconnecting youth, teen pregnancy prevention, juvenile justice, teen dating violence, youth employment, afterschool programs, teen driver safety, mentoring, civic engagement, positive youth development, transition age youth, service-learning, and bullying

Capitol Ideas: The Council of State Governments

This is a forum containing creative ideas and promising approaches relevant to safe and healthy academic environments, including:

  • Coordinated School Health
  • Crisis & Violence Prevention
  • Legislative & Regulatory Action
  • Mental Health
  • Nutrition
  • Physical Activity
  • Privacy
  • Sexual Health

Just and Fair Schools Fund

This site includes a strong focus on grassroots initiatives designed to eliminate harsh school discipline policies and practices. It includes a hotlink to Communities Turning the Tide on School Discipline, a report with inspirational stories about partners and news about their accomplishments including:

  • New legislation emphasizing restorative justice as an alternative to zero tolerance
  • Decreases in exclusionary discipline practices
  • Coalition-building to accelerate a paradigm shift in how discipline works.
  • A monthly newsletter going back to Spring 2011 shares updates on parent-, youth-, and congregation-led victories, and news and resources related to promoting positive school climates and discipline

The Supportive School Discipline Community of Practice (SSDCoP)

  • This site provides user-friendly resources about supportive school discipline research and practice, including Out of School & Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools
  • Two policy guides are available: School Climate & School Discipline: A Guidance Package; Addressing the Out-Of-School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members
  • An SSDCoP e-digest highlights ongoing services (including technical assistance), products, and tools. It also reports news put out from federal agencies, research summaries and information about exemplary practices. Versions are available going back to January 2014
  • SSDCoP has a membership option intended to promote shared work and bring together stakeholders who have a shared passion around advancing supportive school discipline

Restorative Practices: A Guide for Educators

This is a link to a toolkit that provides user-friendly information about restorative practices, how they can be integrated into school settings, and benefits that are expected for students. Content from the toolkit includes:

  • A rationale for why using restorative practices is important
  • An overview of types of restorative practices
  • Tip and strategies for implementing restorative practices with quality in school settings
  • Examples/snapshots of Schools and Districts that have used restorative practices
  • An infographic (entitled A Tale of Tools) presents key differences between zero-tolerance education systems and restorative-practices based education systems