Harsh school discipline policies and practices have led several students—particularly students of color and students with disabilities—to disconnect from school, according to a new report titled Disciplined and Disconnected by the research institute of Americas Promise Alliance.
Historically, school discipline practices have operated on a deterrence model of behavior management and sought to motivate compliant behavior through the fear of punishment. Often, such punishments took the form of removing the student from school for a prescribed amount of time through suspension and/or expulsion.
Yet, keeping students out of school deprives them of opportunities to connect with their schools and the people in them. As a result, suspension and expulsion can lead to social isolation and a lack of adult supervision and support. This approach is a doubled-edged sword. Not only does it limit a student’s ability to learn from their mistakes, educators lose an opportunity to learn how to better support their students.
This approach to discipline, identified as exclusionary, tends to force many students off track and cause many of them to further disengage from the educational process. In the long run, it can threaten their ability to succeed in school and life. More and more research has affirmed the detrimental impact of exclusionary discipline on educational and future outcomes.
Across the nation policymakers and schools are seeking ways to reimagine school discipline policy and practice to be more rooted in understanding the needs and experiences of students.
In 2013, the California legislature passed AB 420 and eliminated the out of school suspension for willful defiance of students in grades K through 3rd. Since the implementation of this measure, suspensions in elementary schools have dropped 60 percent; however, a Senate Bill that called for expanding this approach through the 12th grade, stalled in the legislature this year.
Despite this progress, Black males continue to experience a suspension rates that in the 2016-2017 school year was 3.6 times greater than that of the statewide rate for all students. San Bernardino and Riverside rate numbers 3 and 4 respectively regarding counties with the highest total suspensions for Black Males.