Improving School Discipline in School Systems

In 2011, the CSG Justice Center, in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University, released Breaking Schools’ Rules, an unprecedented statewide study of nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students. Funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundations, the study found that the majority of students were suspended or expelled at least once between seventh to twelfth grade. When students are removed from the classroom as a disciplinary measure, the odds increase dramatically that the student will repeat a grade, drop out, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. These negative consequences disproportionately affect children of color as well as students with special needs.

In response to the Breaking Schools’ Rules findings and other school discipline data, policymakers and practitioners have recognized the growing need to identify strategies for effectively managing students’ behavior and modifying schools’ policies to support student engagement and learning, and reduce juvenile justice contact.

To help states and local school districts achieve this goal, the CSG Justice Center launched a national consensus-building project that convened experts in fields such as school safety, behavioral health, education, juvenile justice, social services, law enforcement, and child welfare. Youth, parents, and community partners also played a critical and active role in the project. The resulting School Discipline Consensus Report provides policy and practice recommendations and implementation guidance to minimize the dependence on suspensions and expulsions to manage student behavior, improve students’ academic outcomes, reduce their involvement in the juvenile justice system, and promote safe and productive learning environments.

The project was administered in coordination with the Supportive School Discipline Initiative launched by the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Secretary of Education in July 2011 and is supported by a public/private partnership that includes the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice; Atlantic Philanthropies; The California Endowment; and the NoVo Foundation.

Key Findings from the Breaking Schools' Rules Report


Of the nearly 1 million public secondary school students studied, about 15 percent were suspended or expelled 11 times or more; nearly half of these students with 11 or more disciplinary actions were also involved in the juvenile justice system.

  • Repeated suspensions and expulsions predicted poor academic outcomes. Only 40 percent of students disciplined 11 times or more graduated from high school during the study period, and 31 percent of students disciplined one or more times repeated their grade at least once.
  • Only three percent of the disciplinary actions were for conduct in which state law mandated suspensions and expulsions; the rest were made at the discretion of school officials primarily in response to violations of local schools’ conduct codes.
  • African-American students and those with particular educational disabilities were disproportionately disciplined for discretionary actions.