Effective Student Discipline

Resources that help communities understand the scope of the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ and to achieve better outcomes for students and their families.

Fairness and proportion in school discipline are crucial to the quality of our children’s lives, because the use of stringent disciplinary sanctions in schools directly affects their educational outcomes and life prospects. Long-term absences from class increase a student’s risk of failing and dropping out before obtaining a high school degree. High school dropouts are significantly disadvantaged economically and have a higher risk of committing crime than their better-educated peers.

So-called “zero tolerance” school disciplinary policies have contributed to a growing reliance by school officials on the most stringent administrative sanctions available, and on referrals to the court system, to address a wide range of student behaviors—including, arguably, relatively minor incidents.

Our 2011 report, Effective School Discipline: Keeping Kids in Class, shows wide variability in student discipline among Georgia’s 180 school districts. In some districts, out-of-school suspension (OSS) is imposed on more than twenty percent of the school population annually. Excessive school disciplinary action disproportionately impacts disadvantaged youth, especially young black males. OSS, for instance, is imposed up to three times as often on black students, poor students and special education students. Not surprisingly, school districts with high OSS rates tend to have lower than average graduation rates.

The study revealed successful alternatives that maintain order and a safe environment while keeping kids in class. Its call to action recommended:

  • Improved disclosure of discipline data
  • Evaluation of alternative education
  • Resources to implement behavior management programs
  • Refinement of the Georgia school disruption statute
  • Enhanced focus in student conduct codes on student supports and parent involvement.

Related Resources and Links