Unfinished Business

Report Provides Comprehensive Recommendations to Improve School Discipline Policies

By Quaila Hugh, a Summer 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in March released its Civil Rights Data Collection, which identified troubling disparities in school discipline. Black children, for example, represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.

To complement this data, The Council of State Governments Justice Center this week released “School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System,” which carefully charts the harmful outcomes that strict discipline policies have on our students.


According to the report, students suspended from school are likely to have their grades fall during the period of suspension, increasing the likelihood of students dropping out and funneling into the juvenile justice system. Further, the report echoes the OCR data in illustrating that these policies disproportionately affect students of color, students with disabilities, and students who identify as LGBT.

The report, however, does not passively testify to these issues. Collecting information, data, and testimony from over 600 practitioners over the course of three years, it outlines more than 60 recommendations for how to improve our current discipline practices. The holistic recommendations are best practices collected from every related field, including education, health, law enforcement, juvenile justice, and families, all of which have a stake in school discipline.

This report is a call to action to protect the minority students suspended at sometimes double the rate as their White peers, the 20 percent of secondary school students with disabilities, and the LGBT youth who are three times more likely to be subjected to severe disciplinary treatment. It highlights crucial changes in discipline policy needed to create a safe environment, address the behavioral health needs of children, and inform police on how to build a positive relationship with students.

As the title suggests, this will ensure we engage our students in classrooms and do not allow our most vulnerable populations to fall through the cracks and into the courtrooms.

Click here to read the full report.