Policy Recommendations

Policy Recommendations

1. increase the collection and use of data, especially data disaggregated by race and gender, on school discipline.
Generally, suspension data are not among the required elements of school or district reports to the public. Nor are they often used as indicators of effective schooling under federal law. As a result, school discipline data only receives attention on an occasional basis, when the news reports on students who were expelled unfairly, or after a violent incident. Given the research that frequent use of suspension may be ineffective and even harmful to students in the long run, our first recommendation is that discipline data be collected and publicly reported for all schools and districts, at least annually, and with full disaggregation of the data by race with gender.

2. identify schools and districts with high suspension rates and provide technical assistance on effective alternative strategies.
Our second recommendation is that the federal government combine its monitoring and grant-making authority to identify schools and districts with comparatively high rates of suspension and provide technical assistance grants to help these schools and districts adopt evidence-based methods that can reduce the removal of students, improve school climate, and improve school safety.

3. Use the investigative authority of OCr to identify and address unlawful discrimination in the use of exclusionary school discipline.
Third, the magnitude of the differences in risk for suspension by race with gender revealed in this study suggests the possibility of unlawful discrimination and the need for intensified monitoring by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which has the jurisdiction to investigate possible race- and gender-based discrimination. Data alone do not prove discrimination. OCR has the authority to investigate, however, whether policies or practices have an unlawful discriminatory impact - an impact that can occur even where the disparity in question was not the result of intentional discrimination. If, for example, in pursuit of a safer learning environment, a well-meaning school board pursued a school discipline policy (e.g. suspending truant youth) that resulted in large and disparate numbers of students by race or gender losing instructional time, but had no positive impact on truancy, that policy could be found by OCR to violate the disparate impact regulations promulgated pursuant to federal antidiscrimination law. The purpose of issuing such a finding would be to prompt the school or district to replace the ineffective discipline policy with one that works for all students.