removed from class.15 Because discipline tends to involve a subjective determination by school
administrators, research suggests that implicit racial bias by teachers and administrators is a key
contributing factor to disproportionality and that increased training in cultural competency for
school staff is needed.16
Inextricably linked to the racial disparities in discipline, known as the “discipline gap,”17
is the phenomenon of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”18 The “school to prison pipeline” is a term
used to describe the use of school practices that push youth, primarily students of color, out of
school and into the juvenile justice and/or penal system.19 Research has shown that there is a direct
correlation between exclusionary discipline practices and an increased likelihood of subsequent
arrest and incarceration.20 In addition to the indirect impact of exclusionary discipline on arrest
rates, schools are also making direct referrals of students to law enforcement, often by police
officers stationed in the schools, referred to as “school resource officers.”21 According to the most
recent available data released by the U.S. Department of Education, approximately 260,000
students were referred to law enforcement and 92,000 students were subjected to school-related
arrests in the 2011-12 school year; a disproportionate number of black students and students with
disabilities were impacted by these practices.22 Increased awareness of the scope and effect of
these practices has sparked greater national, regional, and state interest in reforming exclusionary
school discipline policies among researchers, educators, policymakers, legal and community
advocates and organizers, juvenile justice professionals, families, community members, and
15 Frances Vavrus & Kim Marie Cole, “I Didn’t Do Nothing”: The Discursive Construction of Suspension, 34 URB.
87, 109 (2002).
16 CHERYL STAATS, KIRWIN INST., IMPLICIT RACIAL BIAS AND SCHOOL DISCIPLINE DISPARITIES: EXPLORING THE
CONNECTION 7-10, 14 (2014), http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ki-ib-argument-
17 See DANIEL J. LOSEN ET AL., CTR. FOR CIVIL RIGHTS REMEDIES, ARE WE CLOSING THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE GAP?
disciplinegap/AreWeClosingTheSchoolDisciplineGap_FINAL221.pdf [hereinafter LOSEN ET AL.] (documenting
racial and ethnic disparities in out-of-school school suspensions at the elementary and secondary levels).
18 Johanna Wald & Daniel J. Losen, Defining and Redirecting a School-to-Prison Pipeline, NEW DIRECTIONS YOUTH
DEV., Autumn 2003, at 9–15; ADVANCEMENT PROJECT, EDUCATION ON LOCKDOWN: THE SCHOOLHOUSE TO
JAILHOUSE TRACK 11 (2005).
19 LOSEN ET AL., supra note 17, at 40; EMILY MORGAN ET AL., COUNCIL OF STATE GOV’TS JUSTICE CTR., THE SCHOOL
DISCIPLINE CONSENSUS REPORT: STRATEGIES FROM THE FIELD TO KEEP STUDENTS ENGAGED IN SCHOOL AND OUT OF
THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM 11 (2014).
20 Shollenberger, supra note 12, at 27–29 (“Students across the United States who are suspended from school are less
likely than their nonsuspended peers to obtain a high school diploma and to obtain a bachelor’s degree by their late
20s, and are more likely to be arrested, arrested multiple times, and sentenced to confinement in a correctional
21 Erik Eckholm, With Police in Schools, More Children in Court, N.Y. TIMES (Apr. 12, 2013),
CATHERINE Y. KIM, DANIEL J. LOSEN & DAMON T. HEWITT, THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE: STRUCTURING LEGAL
22 U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC. OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, DATA SNAPSHOT: SCHOOL DISCIPLINE 1, 6-7 (Civil Rights Data
Collection ed., Mar. 2014), http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Downloads/CRDC-School-Discipline-Snapshot.pdf.
23 See generally CLOSING THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE GAP: EQUITABLE REMEDIES FOR EXCESSIVE EXCLUSION (Daniel
Losen ed., 2015) (compilation of research by various authors documenting the impact of exclusionary school discipline
policies, offering evidence-based alternatives, and connecting the research to policy-level action steps); LOSEN ET AL.,