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ERIC Number: ED524711
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Oct
Pages: 34
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice
Losen, Daniel J.
National Education Policy Center
In March of 2010, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a speech that highlighted racial disparities in school suspension and expulsion and that called for more rigorous civil rights enforcement in education. He suggested that students with disabilities and Black students, especially males, were suspended far more often than their White counterparts. These students, he also noted, were often punished more severely for similar misdeeds. Just months later, in September of 2010, a report analyzing 2006 data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights found that more than 28% of Black male middle school students had been suspended at least once. This is nearly three times the 10% rate for white males. Further, 18% of Black females in middle school were suspended, more than four times as often as white females (4%).3 Later that same month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Duncan each addressed a conference of civil rights lawyers in Washington, D.C., and affirmed their departments' commitment to ending such disparities. 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. As part of the disparate impact analysis, the brief examines whether frequent disciplinary exclusion from school is educationally justifiable and whether other discipline policies and practices might better promote a safe and orderly learning environment while generating significantly less racial disparity. 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. (Contains 3 figures, 1 table and 97 notes.) [For related reports, see: (1) "Federal Policy Recommendations to Promote Fair and Effective School Discipline. NEPC Discipline Resource Sheet" (ED524713); (2) "School Discipline: What the Research Tells Us--Myths and Facts. NEPC Discipline Resource Sheet" (ED524710); (3) "Good Discipline: Legislation for Education Reform" (ED524714); (4) "Good Discipline: Legislation for Education Reform. Appendices" (ED524715); and (5) "State Legislative Recommendations to Promote Fair and Effective School Discipline. NEPC Discipline Resource Sheet" (ED524712).]
National Education Policy Center. School of Education 249 UCB University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309. Tel: 303-735-5290; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice; Ford Foundation
Authoring Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder, National Education Policy Center
IES Cited: ED544771; ED544770; ED545227