Summary of New Research Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Policy
From the Introduction
Public concern about excessive school disciplinary exclusion and the related racial disparities has grown recently. Sixteen new research studies, all presented in January 2013 at the “Closing the School Discipline Gap Conference,” describe the school discipline gap, contributing factors, and the benefits of reducing the disparities for students’ academic and life outcomes, and school safety.
Most suspensions are a matter of the routine enforcement of minor school rules, such as violating dress codes, truancy, excessive tardiness, cell phone use, loitering, or disruption. There is no argument that serious misbehavior should be addressed, but as this body of new research suggests, harsh discipline policies increase the number of young people who are disengaged from school, which has damaging academic consequences and long-term economic and societal costs.
Policymakers have been reluctant to change this harsh approach to school discipline, in part because the social costs have been hidden and in part because effective alternatives have taken time to develop.
In an effort to sharpen the focus on disparities in school discipline and the viability of constructive alternatives to suspension that could help close the school discipline gap, The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, with the assistance of a collaborative of experts in this field, commissioned 16 new research papers from leading scholars across the country.
This summary highlights the findings from the commissioned studies in the two areas most relevant to policymakers. First, the studies show how reducing suspensions can lead to improved academic outcomes and avoid hidden costs. Second, the research explores promising alternatives to the discipline status quo, including teacher training and classroom management; ideas for improving Positive Behavioral Supports and Interventions (PBIS); the benefits of restorative practices; and social and emotional learning; and protocols for addressing threats made by students. The papers describe efforts that have proven successful, including examples from Cleveland, Ohio, and across the state of Virginia.
The aim of this summary is to further inform the education debate and bring more attention to school discipline policy. This robust collection of new research is accessible at www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu.