Suspension refers to the temporary removal of a student from his or her regular educational setting for a violation of school policies or rules. During suspension, a student is not allowed to attend school or attend school activities for a set length of time. This length of time can vary from days to weeks, depending on the violation and school’s policies. Many schools across the country utilize two forms of suspension: In-school and Out-of-school suspension.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights defines the two types of suspension:

In-school suspension
“Instances in which a child is temporarily removed from his or her regular classroom(s) for at least half a day but remains under the direct supervision of school personnel.  Direct supervision means school personnel are physically in the same location as students under their supervision.”

Out-of-school suspension
Out-of-school suspension removes the school from school grounds. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights distinguishes between two types of out of school suspension:

“For students without disabilities and students with disabilities served solely under Section 504: Out-of-school suspension means excluding a student from school for disciplinary reasons for one school day or longer.  This does not include students who served their suspension in the school.”

“For students with disabilities (IDEA): Out-of-school suspension is an instance in which a child is temporarily removed from his/her regular school for disciplinary purposes to another setting (e.g., home, behavior center).  This includes both removals in which no IEP services are provided because the removal is 10 days or less as well as removals in which the child continues to receive services according to his/her IEP.”

The disparity in suspensions has become a growing problem for schools throughout the country. According to the 2012 “Helping to Ensure Equal Access to Education” report by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students are disciplined more often than their white classmates who commit similar infractions. A growing body of research shows that gaps in suspension rates are not a result of disparate rates of misbehavior, but are in part a result of poor classroom management, lack of diversity of teaching staff, and school climate.  Suspensions have been linked to academic disengagement, lower achievement and greater risks of school dropout and contact with the juvenile justice system (Education Northwest, 2013).

Keeping California’s Kids in School: Fewer Students of Color Missing School for Minor Misbehavior

(2014) University of California Los Angeles' Civil Rights Project

The study analyzed suspension data in California’s 745 school districts that submitted school discipline data in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. The report identifies a reduction in out-of-school suspensions that may stem from the use of alternative disciplinary measures and changes that some districts have made to deal with the excessive use of suspensions. The report provides recommendations for creating more effective disciplinary policies and reducing disparities.

U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights

(2014) Data Snapshot: School Discipline

The March 2014 issue brief highlights school discipline, restraint and seclusion data from school districts across the country.

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

(2011) Council of State Governments Justice Center

This report examined individual school records and school campus data pertaining to all seventh-grade public school students in Texas in 2000, 2001, and 2002. The analysis of each grade’s student records covered at least a six-year period, creating a statewide longitudinal study. Researchers had access to the state juvenile justice database, which allowed researchers to learn about the school disciplinary history of youth who had juvenile records. This study was conducted to improve policymakers’ understanding of who is suspended and expelled from public secondary schools, and the impact of those removals on students’ academic performance and juvenile justice system involvement.

Parsing Disciplinary Disproportionality: Contributions of Infraction, Student, and School Characteristics to Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion

(2014) American Educational Research Journal

The paper examines how factors such as infractions and school characteristics contribute to racial disparities in out-of-school suspension and expulsion. The research suggest that school-level variables, appear to be among the strongest predictors to suspension or expulsion; and that schools and districts looking to reduce these racial and ethnic disparities in discipline should focus on school-and classroom-based interventions.

Race Is Not Neutral: A National Investigation of African American and Latino Disproportionality in School Discipline

(2011) School Psychology Review

The paper reviews the documented patterns of office discipline referrals in 364 elementary and middle schools during the 2005–2006 academic year. The results indicate that students from African American and Latino families were more likely to receive an expulsion or receive out of school suspension than their white peers for the same or similar problem behavior.

The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment

(2002) The Urban Review

Drawing upon one year of middle-school disciplinary data for an urban school district, researchers explored three of the most commonly offered hypotheses for disproportionate discipline: gender, race, and socioeconomic status.

Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School

(2012) The Civil Rights Project

This national report provides national and state level estimates of suspension rates. The report demonstrates that, in most districts, the highest risk for suspension is revealed when the data is disaggregated by race and combined with gender and/or disability status.

Legal and Justice Center: New Report on Suspensions and Racial Disparities

The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and the Legal Aid Justice Center have partnered on a new report documenting the scope of racial disparities in school suspension in Virginia.

Safeguarding our Children: An Action Guide

(2000) U.S. Department of Education

Produced for the Departments of Education and Justice, and vetted by the White House and 26 National Associations, this Action Guide provides practical steps schools can take to design and implement school safety plans to reduce violence in our schools and help children get access to services they need. This guide stresses the importance of a three-stage, comprehensive model that includes prevention, early intervention and intensive services to address school safety issues.

The Disproportionate Discipline of African American Learners: Reducing School Suspensions and Expulsions

(2000) The Council for Exceptional Children

The article examines exclusionary discipline practices and their impact on African American students. Culturally responsive instructional and management strategies are identified that can mitigate school suspensions and expulsions of African American children and youth.

Alternatives to Suspensions

(2010) Center for Child and Family Policy Duke University

This brief was created to inform policymakers of the range of evidence-based practices that can be adopted to reduce suspension rates without burdensome costs to schools. The brief lists a variety of ways to limit the use of suspension and to mitigate its negative effects.

How Educators Can Eradicate Disparities in School Discipline: A Briefing Paper on School-Based Interventions

(2014) Disciple Disparities

The paper highlights a list of practical and evidence based interventions that can be used to reform and improve equity in school discipline.

Action Steps to Implement Recommendations for Reducing Suspension and Expulsion in California Schools

(2011) Education Development Center

In this report, EDC conducted a review and analysis of California schools’ current approaches to and promising practices for reducing suspensions and expulsions. Using the findings of the year-long review and analysis, EDC developed a set of eight recommendations for policymakers and practitioners.

Building School and Teacher Capacity to Eliminate the School-to-Prison Pipeline

(2011) Teacher Education and Special Education

In this article, researchers examine four factors that amplify the pipeline to prison, which if addressed effectively by educators can reduce it while creating alternative pathways to success. Researchers also provide concrete suggestions for bolstering educator and school capacity to eliminate the school to prison pipeline and implications for teacher preparation.

How Can We Improve School Discipline?

(2010) Educational Researcher

This article surveys three approaches to improving school discipline practices and student behavior: ecological approaches to classroom management; schoolwide positive behavioral supports; and social and emotional learning.

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.

Addressing the Out of School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members

(2013) National School Boards Association

This local policy guide offers a snapshot of ideas, models, and processes that school boards are using to promote student growth through positive school discipline reform models.

Suspension rates at U.S. Schools nationwide

The Center for Civil Rights Remedies

This tool will identify the suspension rates for students by school district across the country.

Fix School Discipline: How We Can Fix School Disciple Toolkit

California: Fix School Discipline

This toolkit is a step-by-step guide that includes ready-to-use documents, sample discipline policies, and information about alternative approaches to school discipline that have proved effect in reducing suspension and expulsion rates in California.

Highlight: Garfield High School

(2014) Fix School Discipline

The paper highlights the Los Angeles Unified School District who began requiring schools to implement schoolwide positive behavior interventions and support programs in 2007 as an alternative to the existing disciplinary framework of suspensions and expulsions. Two years later, in the 2010–2011 school year, suspensions had reduced to a single one.

Stopping Out of School Suspension: A Guide for State Policy

(2012) National Opportunity to Learn

This summary of state policies highlights legislation that promotes student growth through positive school discipline reform models. The state strategies are organized into four categories to identify thematic policy trends to address the out-of-school suspension crisis: stopping suspensions and promoting alternatives, improving data collection nd reporting, building the capacity of students, teachers and principals, and pushing comprehensive approaches.

Chicago Public Schools Release an Outreach Plan to Strengthen its Suspension and Expulsion Reduction Plan

(2014) Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools is strengthening its Suspension and Expulsion Reduction Plan with the release of an outreach plan that will engage parents, stakeholders and community partners to build on the plan the district has made to decrease suspensions.