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in less safe educational environments marked by disrupted learning and mistrust.7 Exclusionary
discipline is also associated with school dropout and entry into the juvenile justice system8 and is
more likely to be applied to students with academic problems.9 Removing already-at-risk students
from their educational setting is counterproductive because they lose instructional time, become
further behind academically, and become even more disconnected to school.10
The long-standing concerns about the inefficacy and overuse of exclusionary discipline
practices are coupled with increased federal and national outcry about racial disproportionality in
school discipline, specifically among African-American males and those in special education,
consistently documented as early as 1975.11 For example, a national longitudinal study showed
that black boys were at a significantly higher risk of suspension than any other group, with two in
three (67%) suspended at least once between kindergarten and twelfth grade, compared to
approximately one in three (39%) white boys.12 The study further showed that the racial gap in
school suspensions is not explained by differences in serious misbehavior.13 A national study of
school discipline in elementary and middle schools found that black and Latino students were
likely to be disciplined more severely than white students for the same infraction and that the
disparities stemmed from discipline for less significant offenses such as tardiness, truancy,
noncompliance, and general disruption.14 In a qualitative study involving classroom observations
at a Midwestern high school with a diverse student population, African-American and Latina
students, who tended to be spokespersons for student concerns, were singled out for school
exclusion due to the teacher’s perception that classroom control was lost, rather than as a result of
the offenses being more severe or violent than those engaged in by other students who were not
7 Pedro A. Noguera, Preventing and Producing Violence: A Critical Analysis of Responses to School Violence, 65
HARV. EDUC. REV. 189, 198 (1995).
8 U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC., GUIDING PRINCIPLES: A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR IMPROVING SCHOOL CLIMATE AND DISCIPLINE
ii (2014) [hereinafter U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC., GUIDING PRINCIPLES].
9 Robert Balfanz et al., High-Poverty Secondary Schools and the Juvenile Justice System: How Neither Helps the
Other and How That Could Change, NEW DIRECTIONS FOR YOUTH DEV.: DECONSTRUCTING THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON
PIPELINE, Autumn 2003, at 9, 11.
10 Fenning et al., supra note 2, at 106. See also Robert Balfanz et al., Sent Home and Put Off Track: The Antecedents,
Disproportionalities, and Consequences of Being Suspended in the 9th Grade, in CLOSING THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE
GAP: EQUITABLE REMEDIES FOR EXCESSIVE EXCLUSION 17, 27-28 (Daniel Losen ed., 2015) (documenting the results
from a statewide study in Florida that found that a single suspension in 9th grade was the triggering event for a certain
group of students becoming more disengaged in school and eventually dropping out).
11 LOSEN, supra note 1, at 27–28; Balfanz et al, supra note 9, at 26–28; CHILDREN’S DEFENSE FUND, SCHOOL
SUSPENSIONS: ARE THEY HELPING CHILDREN 3, 13 (1975); Russell J. Skiba, et al., The Color of Discipline: Sources
of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment, 34 URB. REV. 317, 319 (2002) [hereinafter Skiba et
al., Color of Discipline]; Russell J. Skiba, Race is Not Neutral: A National Investigation of African American and
Latino Disproportionality in School Discipline, 40 SCH. PSYCHOL. REV. 85, 104 (2011) [hereinafter Skiba, Race is
Not Neutral]; U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC., GUIDING PRINCIPLES, supra note 8, at i.
12 Tracey Shollenberger, Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Subsequent Outcomes: Evidence from the
National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, in CLOSING THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE GAP: EQUITABLE REMEDIES FOR
EXCESSIVE EXCLUSION 34 (Daniel Losen ed., 2015) [hereinafter Shollenberger, Racial Disparities].
13 Id. at 40. See also TONY FABELO ET AL., COUNCIL OF STATE GOV’TS JUSTICE CTR. & PUB. POLICY RESEARCH INST.,
BREAKING SCHOOLS’ RULES: A STATEWIDE STUDY OF HOW SCHOOL DISCIPLINE RELATES TO STUDENTS’ SUCCESS
AND JUVENILE JUSTICE INVOLVEMENT 46 (2011) (finding, using a multivariate analysis, that black students in Texas
were not more likely than white students to commit serious offenses).