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 “If we are to undo the racial inequities and disproportionality that continue to plague us we must find constructive ways to talk about them and intervene constructively and consciously to end them.”

- Carter, Skiba, Arredondo, & Pollock, 2014

The Equity Project at Indiana University in the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy:
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The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative is supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies and Open Society Foundations
“Today, our schools suspend roughly three and a half million kids a year, and refer a quarter of a million children to the police each year. And the patterns are even more troubling for children of color —particularly boys—and for students with disabilities. We cannot lay our incarceration crisis at the door of our schools. But we have to do our part to end the school to prison pipeline. That's going to force us to have difficult conversations about race, which I'll get to in a moment.” - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, September, 30, 2015. Read more at:
Investing in Teachers Instead of Prisons

In this issue of the Discipline Disparities Highlights, we feature our new webpage "Promising Approaches for Reducing Disciplinary Disparities in School.” Supported by the Open Society Foundations, the project highlights promising approaches implemented by school districts and community organizations around the country that we have identified as explicitly attempting to reduce disciplinary disparities. As data concerning the negative and unequal impact of suspension and expulsion continue to become extensive, an increasing number of communities will be seeking alternatives. These descriptions can thus serve as a guide to those seeking to create change. The issue also provides information on key reports and updates in disciplinary reform.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Annapolis, Maryland
In 2011, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) embarked on an initiative to reduce disproportionality regarding achievement and discipline. With a focus on community partnerships, professional development, and positive behavior supports, they report a trend in reduction of suspensions for all students, including African American students.  

Advocates for Children and Youth, Baltimore, Maryland
Advocates for Children and Youth (ACY) created a collaborative coalition to address suspensions and discipline disparities in 2012. The coalition influenced state regulations on school discipline, and is currently working to develop measures to document and reduce the disproportionate impact of school-based arrests and referrals in Maryland.

Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore, Maryland
In 2012, Baltimore City Public Schools embarked on a series of reforms focused on cultivating positive school climates designed to improve student learning consistently over the long term. The reforms favor restorative approaches to discipline and have decreased suspensions across the district.

CADRE: Community Asset Development Re-defining Education, Los Angeles, California
CADRE, a community member-based organization in the South LA region of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), empowers parents to advocate to improve school conditions and eliminate racial disparities in punitive discipline.  Their efforts ensured the adoption of a district-wide positive behavior support discipline policy and the School Climate Bill of Rights within the LAUSD. Since CADRE’s start, suspensions in LAUSD have dropped by over 90%.

Citizen Action of New York & Alliance for Quality Education, Buffalo, New York
In 2011, Citizen Action of New York and Alliance for Quality Education began working to address the excessive and harsh discipline practices in Buffalo Public Schools. Their efforts led to the adoption of a Code of Conduct that focuses on prevention, PBIS interventions, fair practices, and reducing suspension rates. 

Christian Fenger Academy High School, Chicago, Illinois
Identified by the district as a turnaround school in 2009, Christian Fenger Academy High School has shifted the school climate and culture by implementing preventative policies and curriculum that are ultimately reducing disproportionality for African American students at the district level.

Davidson Middle School, San Rafael, California
Since implementing programming in 2009 to address the high number of suspensions and disproportionate number of suspensions for Latino students, Davidson Middle School has used restorative circles and suspension diversions to close both discipline and achievement gaps.

Garfield High School, Los Angeles, California
In 2009, Garfield High School began implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to decrease referrals and suspensions. By enlisting community services, starting a parent volunteer program, and providing students a voice in school decisions, the school reported no suspensions in 2014 and has decreased disproportionality at the district level.

Harlem Renaissance High School, Manhattan, New York
In 2012, Harlem Renaissance High School began to address high rates of out-of-school suspensions. Instead of punitive responses to discipline issues, they currently rely on restorative justice and individually rehabilitative practices. The significant reduction in out-of-school suspensions at Harlem Renaissance has had an impact on disproportionality within the school district.

Old Mill High School, Millersville, Maryland
Since 2011, Old Mill High School has reformed its discipline codes to only target specific behaviors that impact safety or quality of the learning environment. By holding students accountable, as well as providing classroom management supports for teachers, there has been a decrease in office referrals and suspensions, especially for African American males.

Oakland Unified School District- African American Male Achievement , Oakland, California
The Oakland Unified School District created the Office of African American Male Achievement (AAMA) to improve outcomes for African American males in 2010. The schools partner with a number of community agencies and focus on trauma informed support, restorative justice, life skills, and socio-emotional learning. The overall impact in the first few years has been a reduction in disproportionality.

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, Denver, Colorado and State-wide
Padres & Jóvenes Unidos is a community organization dedicated to educational justice with a focus on discipline disparities. The organization has played a significant role in rewriting the discipline policy of Denver Public Schools, limiting role of police in school discipline and providing Restorative Justice Programs. Since its launch in 2003, there have been statewide reductions in all categories of exclusionary and criminalizing punishment.

Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), Oakland, California
RJOY was created in 2005 to support the adoption of restorative practices in schools, the juvenile justice system, and the greater Oakland community. They have been partners with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) since 2008, supporting the use of restorative justice to positively impact school discipline by reducing suspension rates, especially for African American males.

Wisconsin PBIS Network/Wisconsin RtI Center & Eau Clair Area School District, Eau Clair, Wisconsin
In 2010, to address racial disproportionality, the Eau Claire Area School District integrated culturally responsive practices into their Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports implementation (CRPBIS). Focusing on incorporating culturally relevant systems, the program has been used as a vehicle to reduce disproportionality in discipline across the state of Wisconsin.

Discipline Disparities Updates
White House Hosts Rethink School Discipline

The White House hosted a day-long conference for teachers, principals, and superintendents across the country on creating positive school climates and implementing effective discipline practices.  The conference advanced the national conversation on the negative effects of exclusionary discipline and provided positive alternatives as well.

Public School Safety and Discipline: 2013-14 by Lucinda Gray and Laurie Lewis

The U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences provide a first look at nationally representative data on school safety and discipline.

Michael Yudin Begins the Dialogue to #RethinkDiscipline

Watch the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services' Michael Yudin and other national experts in an online discussion about out-of-school suspensions, their impact on students, and effective alternatives. Yudin was joined by:
Russell Skiba at Indiana University's Equity Project; Ramona Bishop, Superintendent of Vallejo City Unified School District in California; and Marlyn Tillman from Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline (Gwinnett STOPP).


Illinois Governor Signs Bill Making School Discipline Policies More Effective, Less Exclusionary

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill requiring school districts and charter schools to revise discipline policies to remove zero tolerance punishment, facilitate reengagement of students who are excluded due to discipline, and require ongoing professional development to promote positive and healthy school climates.

Bill That Would Curb Suspensions of Youngest Public School Students Clears Senate Committee

Louisiana’s Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would generally ban out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in kindergarten through third grade, unless they pose a threat to the safety or well-being of others.

Texas Truancy Law Reform Receives Widespread Support

Statewide, 210,000 Texas students and their parents were criminally charged with Failure to Attend School (FTA) in 2013. Texas Senate SB 106 reforms state truancy laws that have been debated as part of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Bill to Limit Grounds for Expulsions Clears Oregon House

New legislation, aimed to deter the “school-to-prison-pipeline,” outlines only 3 specific circumstances for which students in fifth grade or lower could be expelled. The bill also requires schools to take the appropriate steps to prevent behavior that leads to exclusionary discipline.

Resources & Reports

Addressing the Root Causes of Disparities in School Discipline: An Educator’s Action Planning Guide by Osher, Fisher, Amos, Katz, Dwyer, Duffey, and Colombi
Developed by the American Institute for Research for the U.S. Department of Education, this guide offers schools a roadmap to improve school climate and address persistent disparities in school discipline. It includes tools to assess and systematically address disparities in a data informed manner.

Rethink Discipline: Resource Guide for Superintendent Action by the U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education guide outlines promising practices and useful resources for school leaders to provide a supportive school climate and improve discipline issues.

National Resources Center for School Justice Partnerships by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Recent initiative from the Department of Justice that provides technical assistance to juvenile courts, schools, law enforcement agencies, and others to support school discipline efforts.

Four Alternatives to Zero Tolerance Discipline: As National Conversations Over Race and Discipline Gain Steam, Schools Have a Variety of Choices by Kate Schimel
Compiled from the work of educators and education researchers, alternative approaches to exclusionary discipline practices are presented.

Education Suspended: The Use of High School Disciplinary Records in College Admissions by Marsha Weissman and Emily NaPier
This report examines how colleges use student high school discipline data in the admissions process, highlighting the disparate impact on students of color and students with disabilities even at the college level.

Discipline Disparities in the News

Five Facts Everyone Needs to Know About the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Outlines useful information about the school-to-prison pipeline and approaches to end it.

Suspension Is Not the Answer: Investing in Students' Mental Health Yields Academic Gains
Acknowledging the ineffectiveness of punitive discipline, the article highlights the benefits of psychological support services for students’ academic achievement and overall well-being.

Tracing The School-to-Prison Pipeline
Analyzes the profiteering behind punitive discipline practices that place students in the juvenile justice system. The authors point to the important role of school administrators and argue for a shift in disciplinary practices.

Report Shows Black Students With Behavioral Problems Are Arrested, While White Students Get Counseling
Highlights new study from Penn State showing that Black and low income students are more likely to be punished when they misbehave compared to their White counterparts.


Seattle School Board Halts Suspensions for Elementary Students
The School Board in Seattle has placed a moratorium on out-of-school suspension for elementary students who commit nonviolent offenses and will develop a plan to significantly reduce suspensions and collect disciplinary data.

'Concentrated Disadvantage' Drives Chicago Discipline Disparities, Study Says
Schools with students from more vulnerable backgrounds also have the highest rates of in-school suspensions and arrests at school; and they tend to give out the longest suspensions. The suspension practices at these schools, coupled with the fact that they serve African American students, drive racial disparities at the district level.

When Schooling Meets Policing
Article describes the impact of school resource officers in the criminalization of youth behaviors, especially Black and Latino students. 

Report: Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues
A recent report discusses best practices for collaboration among advocates to address disparities in discipline based on race, gender, and sexual orientation, focusing on intersectionality.

Race In America: Having A More Diverse Teaching Staff In Public School Could Help Shape Perceptions Of Fairness
Increasing diversity among teaching staff can have a significant effect on students’ perceptions of discipline fairness in school, as well as fairness with other government-run institutions later in life.


Charter Schools Suspend Kids, Public Schools Don’t — Which Does Better?
Describes the challenge of effective discipline and maintaining a safe and learning centered environment in schools.

Building Positive Relationships to Break the School-To-Prison Pipeline
Students and organizations in California are challenging current practices, shifting away from punitive discipline practices and focusing on creating positive, respectful relationships that help students feel valued and stay on a successful track in school.

Duncan: End School-To-Prison Pipeline, Invest $15 Billion In Teachers' Pay To Keep At-Risk Students In Class
Arne Duncan addressed the country, proposing to reduce imprisonment for nonviolent crimes, and instead, invest in teachers to encourage and support them in providing education for all children. He also encouraged assessing biases and attitudes and the ways they many contribute to disproportionality in school discipline.

If you have specific information on discipline disparities or are engaged in/know of new research addressing discipline disparities, please email us at:

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