Move School Discipline Practices Away from “Zero Tolerance,” Report Says

The Newark Star-Ledger

By Peggy McGlone

Changing school discipline policies to minimize the use of “zero tolerance” practices that lead to suspensions and expulsions could improve learning for all students, according to a new report.

The Council on State Governments Justice Center released a new study Tuesday that provides a “roadmap for change” to decrease schools’ reliance on harsh discipline practices such as suspending and expelling students.

The report offers a wide range of recommendations, from focusing on expectations for student behavior instead of a system of punishments, limiting the role of law enforcement officials in classroom management and targeting students who are at-risk for discipline issues and taking steps to intervene.

The report builds on an earlier report on discipline in Texas schools that revealed nearly 60 percent of high school students had been expelled or suspended at least once and that African-American and Latino students were disciplined at higher rates than their white classmates.

After 700 interviews conducted over three years, the CSG’s found that improving school climate and changing discipline practices is critical to improving learning.

“Anyone who wants to make students feel safer in school, improve high school graduation rates, and close the achievement gap needs to have a plan to reduce the number of youth who are suspended from school,” said Michael Thompson, director of the CSG Justice Center, said in a statement issued with the report.