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Eliminating Excessive and Unfair Exclusionary Discipline in Schools Policy Recommendations for Reducing Disparities

by Damon Hewitt; Daniel Losen; Ivory Toldson

Mar 12, 2014
All schools must be safe places for all members of the learning community. Schools have the right and indeed the responsibility to develop safe school climates to protect the safety of students and teachers, as well as the integrity of learning

Yet the data indicate that it is relatively rare for students to pose a serious danger to themselves or others.In states like Texas, serious safety concerns trigger a "non-discretionary" mandatory removal, but these represent less than 5% of all disciplinary removals from school. While exclusion on grounds of safety is infrequent, students are routinely removed from school for minor offenses like tardiness, truancy, using foul language, disruption, and violation of the dress code.


Of course, public school educators are also responsible for ensuring the integrity of the learning environment and attend to misbehavior that does not raise safety concerns. There is no question that there are circumstances where removing a student from a classroom is helpful to de-escalate a conflict, or to pursue an intervention outside the classroom with the support of an administrator, a counselor, parent(s) or community members. However, too many of our nation's public schools have moved away from reserving school exclusion only for the most serious offenses, and as a measure of last resort. Excessive suspensions and expulsions threaten educational opportunity, thereby undermining our national goals for closing academic achievement gaps for all children.