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Resource roundup: Equitable school discipline

Resource roundup: Equitable school discipline

By Sara Mitrano
April 8, 2020

Research shows that suspending or removing students from the classroom or school for behavioral issues can negatively impact academic performance and increase students’ likelihood of dropping out. These consequences are particularly salient for male students, Black students, and students with disabilities—all groups that are disciplined at higher rates [2,870 KB PDF icon ] compared to their peers. To help educators better understand such disparities and create more equitable discipline policies, we rounded up resources on school discipline from across the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program and other networks funded by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Research partnership related to school discipline

REL Northwest facilitates the Equity in School Discipline Collaborative, a cross-state collaborative that brings together state education agencies, education and community-based organizations, and institutions of higher education in Oregon and Washington to address equity in school climate and discipline. REL Northwest supports this collaborative by designing tools to increase practitioners’ ability to use data to improve school discipline policies and by providing opportunities for members to share lessons learned regarding the implementation of state-level school discipline reform.

School discipline research

The RELs have developed responses to several Ask A REL questions related to school discipline:

A REL Mid-Atlantic report describes trends in disciplinary removals in Maryland during the past decade. The report finds that exclusionary discipline rates declined for all subgroups of students; however, Black students and students with disabilities continued to be suspended and expelled from schools at more than twice the rates of other students. A companion infographic [408 KB PDF icon ] is also available

A National Center for Education Statistics Data Point report examines the use of expulsion as a disciplinary action in U.S. public K–12 schools. Among the findings, a higher percentage of schools with high minority enrollment used expulsion as a disciplinary action in the 2017/18 school year than did schools with low minority enrollment.

Resources to improve school discipline policies and practices

A REL Northeast & Islands report presents an overview of how districts can analyze student-level disciplinary data to answer questions about the use of disciplinary actions, such as whether the actions are disproportionately applied to some student subgroups and whether different types of disciplinary actions are associated with different student academic outcomes. A related webinar is available.

REL Northwest developed a five-part training series to help schools and districts promote equity in their discipline policies and practices. The series provides resources to help school and district teams use data to identify areas of concern related to the overuse of exclusionary discipline or any disproportionality in assigning discipline to student groups, such as students of color or students with disabilities.

REL West hosted a three-part webinar series on how to use data effectively to address individual student needs within a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports framework. In the third part of the webinar, the presenter models how to identify needs from student behavior and then select, implement, and monitor a comprehensive set of interventions to address that student’s needs.

A What Works Clearinghouse practice guide helps elementary school teachers and administrators develop and implement effective prevention and intervention strategies that promote positive student behavior. One recommendation is for educators to modify the classroom learning environment to decrease problem behaviors.

Forthcoming studies on school discipline

REL Midwest is conducting a study focused on student discipline and the use of restorative practices in schools in the Ingham Intermediate School District, a public school district in Michigan.

REL Northwest is examining changes in student discipline practices over a six-year period in Oregon elementary schools that have prioritized improving school discipline.

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Author Information

Sara Mitrano Staff Picture

Sara Mitrano

Research Associate | REL Midwest


Beating the odds (2)

Charter Schools (2)

College and Career Readiness (42)

Data Use (32)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (31)

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Literacy (11)

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Teacher Preparation (24)

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