Dignity in Schools Campaign Statement on the Council of State Governments Report on School Disciplinary Practices in Texas
The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) commends the Council of State Governments (CSG) for its report on school disciplinary practices in Texas, and calls on other states across the country to make similar commitments to investigate the negative impacts of suspension and expulsion on students academic outcomes.
The CSG report finds that nearly 60% of all students in Texas public schools were suspended or expelled at least once between the 7th and 12th grades, and that more than half of those students were disciplined at least four times. These high rates of exclusion are consistent with increasingly punitive practices being used across the country, where nationwide, out-of-school suspension rates have doubled over the past three decades. In New York City public schools, for example, the number of students receiving suspensions in a single school year increased from 28,500 in 2001-02, to nearly 74,000 in 2008-2009.
The CSG report further demonstrates that these punitive, exclusionary discipline policies have devastating consequences on academic outcomes. According to the report, 31% of students who were suspended or expelled at least once were held back a grade, compared to 5% of students who had never been suspended. In addition, 10% of students who were suspended or expelled at least once dropped out of school, compared to 2% who had never been suspended. When students were suspended or expelled multiple times, it had an even greater impact. Among students with 11 or more suspensions or expulsions, 56% were held back at least 1 year and 15% dropped out. The report finds that being suspended or expelled for discretionary violations - which are open to interpretation by school districts and administrators, nearly doubled the likelihood that a student had contact with the juvenile justice system within the subsequent academic year.
The findings of the CSG report are also consistent with evidence from across the country that students of color and students with disabilities are targeted the most by these practices. According to the report, 75% of African American students, and 83% of African American males, had at least one suspension or expulsion, compared to 47% of white students. The report found that in the 9th grade alone, African American students were 31% more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students for discretionary violations, even while controlling for other factors, including socio-economic status, academic performance and school characteristics. At the same time, African American students were 23% less likely to be suspended or expelled for mandatory violations than white students.
Furthermore, the CSG report found that nearly 75% of students with disabilities experienced suspension or expulsion at some point between 7th and 12th grade, compared to just over half of students without a disability. 90% of students designated with “emotional disturbance” and 76% of students with a learning disability had at least one discretionary suspension or expulsion.
Research shows that a focus on punitive, exclusionary discipline that removes students from their regular classrooms without addressing the causes of misbehavior, are ineffective for preventing disruption and improving safety. In the CSG report, 15% of all students in grades 7 to 12 experienced 11 or more disciplinary removals. Suspensions and expulsions are not working.
Analysis of the data in the CGS study shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that reform is urgently needed to address the issues of high suspension and expulsion rates, the disproportionate penalization of students of color and students with disabilities, and the alarming rate of juvenile justice referrals.
On Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26, members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will travel to Washington, DC for two days of congressional visits to raise awareness and build support for the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Act (S. 919), Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 2597, 111th Congress), and the Restorative Justice in Schools Act (H.R. 415). If enacted, these bills would reform disciplinary policy and improve school climate by providing funds, technical assistance, development, and resources for schools districts to implement Restorative Justice practices and Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports.
A growing number of schools around the country are successfully implementing positive approaches to discipline that have improved school climate and learning. Denver Public Schools adopted new discipline policies during the 2008-2009 school year that use restorative justice, resulting in a 68% reduction in police tickets in schools and a 40% reduction in out-of-school suspensions. At West Philadelphia High School, which was on the state’s “Persistently Dangerous Schools” list for six years, after one year of implementing restorative justice practices suspensions were down by 50% and violent acts and serious incidents dropped 52% during 2007–2008. In Chicago, where over 50 high schools in Chicago now have restorative peer jury programs, over 1,000 days of suspension were avoided during the same period by referring students to peer jury programs for violating school rules and keeping them in the learning environment
The Dignity in Schools Campaign is a coalition of youth, parents, educators, civil rights organizations, and social justice advocates working to ensure the human right of every child to a quality education and to be treated with dignity. The DSC challenges the systemic problem of “push out” and promotes local and national alternatives to a culture of zero-tolerance, punishment and removal in our nation’s schools.
Read and/or download the full report - http://justicecenter.csg.org/resources/juveniles