inaccurate calculation of the risk of an erroneous deprivation for the student.44 The commentary is
abundant and persistent on the consequences of exclusionary discipline—both suspension and
expulsion—on students’ later lives, a phenomenon commonly referred to as the “school-to-prison
pipeline.”45 The overall body of research on the phenomenon has cogently shown that students
excluded from school are more likely to become delinquent, to drop out, and to become involved
with the criminal justice system as incarcerated offenders.46
For example, according to a leading study, students who were suspended were twice as
likely to be held back and three times as likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system later
in life.47 Studies also show that students suspended in middle school are particularly subject to
negative long-term consequences. For instance, in one large, Northeastern city, two-thirds of
incarcerated ninth-graders had been suspended at least once in the eighth grade.48 The group had
only attended school—voluntarily or involuntarily (that is, subject to suspension or expulsion)—
58% of the time on average.49 While a full review of the extensive research connecting school
exclusion to juvenile delinquency and incarceration is beyond the scope of this Note, the
connection points to what is at stake for a student in a school disciplinary hearing, and thus, lends
gravity to the consequences of disciplinary tribunal hearings.
Students facing long-term suspension or expulsion after being found guilty are often
assigned to alternative schools as a preference to total exclusion.50 Though assignment to an
alternative education program may at first seem like a more attractive approach for student
placement than complete removal from the educational setting, there is reason to be concerned
about the educational quality of many alternative education programs.51 At least some research has
indicated that alternative schools contribute to—rather than mitigate—the school-to-prison
pipeline phenomenon.52 In 2009, a privately run alternative school in Georgia settled with the
ACLU over claims that its practices deprived students of the fundamental right to basic public
44 See, e.g., C.B. by & Through Breeding v. Driscoll, 82 F.3d 383 (11th Cir. 1996).
45 See Christine A. Christle, et. al., Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline: Identifying School Risk and Protective
Factors for Youth Delinquency, 13 EXCEPTIONALITY 69, 70 (2010), available at
%20Protective%20Factors%20for%20Youth%20Delinquency.pdf (exclusionary discipline practices such as
suspension and expulsion have been identified by research as key risk factors in juvenile delinquency and antisocial
behavior, which are the end result of the school to prison pipeline); see generally Best, supra note 34.
46 See Christle, supra note 45, at 70 (“[e]xclusionary discipline practices, such as suspension, interfere with the
educational process and perpetuate a failure cycle, decreasing the opportunities to gain academic skills and appropriate
47 See School to Prison Pipeline, supra note 39, at 2.
48 See Urban Middle Schools, supra note 41, at 3.
50 See TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY, POLICY RESEARCH: DISCIPLINARY ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAM
PRACTICES, 1 (2007), available at https://tea.texas.gov/acctres/Spec_PRR_17_2007.pdf (providing a brief overview,
history, and policy purpose of “DAEPs”).
51 See generally C.A. Lehr & C.M. Lange, Alternative Schools and the Students They Serve: Perceptions of State
Directors of Special Education (2012), https://ici.umn.edu/products/prb/141/) (discussing whether alternative school
curricula offers adequate special education services for student with disabilities).
52 See AUGUSTINA H. REYES, DISCIPLINARY ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMS IN DISCIPLINE, ACHIEVEMENT,
AND RACE: IS ZERO-TOLERANCE THE ANSWER?, 47–69 (2006) (many alternative schools operate with a law and order
approach that does not serve as a true alternative to the education provided in public schools from which alternative
school students have been removed); see generally Alternative Schools and Pushout: Research and Advocacy Guide,
NESRI (2007), https://www.nesri.org/sites/default/files/%20DSC_Alternative_Schools_GuideFinalSmall.pdf.