How Do We Cut the School to Prison Pipeline? Rethink Discipline

How Do We Cut the School to Prison Pipeline? Rethink Discipline

Last week more than 40 school districts around the nation including superintendents, principals, and teachers attended the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice conference on Rethinking Discipline. “Rethink Discipline” is an initiative to help parents, educators, administrators, and community members understand the impact and legal implications of suspension and expulsion, and how to create a more positive school environment.

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“Creating and sustaining safe, supportive schools is absolutely essential to ensuring students can engage in the rich learning experiences they need for success in college, work and life–that’s why rethinking school discipline is critical to boosting student achievement and improving school outcomes. Today’s conference shows that there are leaders across the country who are committed to doing this work. We are proud to stand as partners with these educators to say that we have to continue to do better for all of our students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Data from the Civil Rights Data Collection shows, “The number of students losing critical learning time due to out of school suspensions and expulsions is staggering.” Over 3 million students are suspended or expelled every year, suspended students are less likely to graduate on time and are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system. “In Texas alone, a single suspension or expulsion for a discretionary offense that did not include a weapon almost tripled a student’s likelihood of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system the next school year, according to   

During the one-day conference, reported several school districts across the nation have already made progress in transforming policies and school climate to support student learning. Here’s a snapshot of their updated policies:

  • Baltimore City Schools, with help from the Council of State Governments’ Discipline Consensus Project, revamped their code of student conduct for a more rehabilitative approach to misbehavior. The State Board of Education is implementing new discipline regulations–from giving school systems more flexibility in managing cases, to requiring that students suspended for short periods are able to complete schoolwork they’ve missed.
  • LA Unified was the first district, in 2013, to ban suspensions for willful defiance–which disproportionately impacted African American students, and includes actions like refusing to turn off a cellphone or failing to wear a school uniform–in favor of alternative discipline.
  • Syracuse has adopted a new code of discipline, established training for staff in alternative approaches, and hired an independent monitor to oversee progress.

Additionally, several resources and tools such as “Addressing the Root Causes of Disciplinary Disparities: An Educator’s Action Planning Guide, and “Rethink School Discipline: Resource Guide for Superintendent Action have been developed to assist school leaders in their efforts to reduce suspensions and expulsions and provide positive school environments.

Read More: Ed.Gov