Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice

Posted on February 02, 2012

This policy brief reviews what researchers have learned about racial disparities in school discipline, including trends over time and how these disparities further break down along lines of gender and disability status. Further, the brief explores the impact that school suspension has on children and their families, including the possibility that frequent out-of-school suspension may have a harmful and racially disparate impact.

Findings of this brief strongly suggest a need for reform. A review of the evidence suggests that subgroups experiencing disproportionate suspension miss important instructional time and are at greater risk of disengagement and diminished educational opportunities. Moreover, despite the fact that suspension is a predictor of students’ risk for dropping out, school personnel are not required to report or evaluate the impact of disciplinary decisions. Overall, the evidence shows the following: there is no research base to support frequent suspension or expulsion in response to non-violent and mundane forms of adolescent misbehavior; large disparities by race, gender and disability status are evident in the use of these punishments; frequent suspension and expulsion are associated with negative outcomes; and better alternatives are available.

Author: Daniel J. Losen, The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA

Access the complete research report HERE> (PDF Link)