Keeping Kids in Class: Fixing Racial Disparities in School Discipline

by Jerri Derlikowski

Feb 1, 2013

School boards and school administrators must weigh all the consequences of school discipline policies, including theunintended consequences. When students are not in school, they miss out on education opportunities. School disciplinary policies that disproportionately keep students of color out of school reduce their opportunities to learn and increase gaps in educational achievement. The data presented in this report clearly show that Arkansas schools rely far too often on disciplinary approaches that keep too many of our students out of school, thus limiting their opportunityto learn.

  • Corporal Punishment – Arkansas should join the enlightened states that prohibit the use of corporal punishment in all school districts, and provide educators with extensive training and support for effective, non-abusive discipline techniques.
  • Changes in Suspension and Expulsion Practices, such as prohibiting the use of out-of-school suspension for truancy; directing schools to use out-of-school suspension only as a measure of last resort (Connecticut); and developing alternative discipline strategies to replace school expulsion, and offer educational options when expulsion may be necessary.
  • Strengthening reporting and the use of data, such as requiring districts to track absenteeism data resulting from in-school suspension and out-of school suspension and tracking arrests made on campus in a manner that will facilitate research.
  • Schools that have a disparity greater than five percent should: (1) require, as part of professional development, that teachers and administrators complete additional training in positive-based intervention systems paid from the district’s professional development funding; and (2) address the issue in their Arkansas Comprehensive School Improvement Plan at both the district and school level.