The Negative and Discriminatory Impact of Zero-Tolerance and Exclusionary Discipline Policies

Research shows that discriminatory discipline practices have a huge negative impact on students of color, students with disabilities, and other historically underserved students.

These practices often take shape as a result of zero-tolerance policies that apply strong punishments for particular infractions—including removing students from the classroom or school via suspensions and expulsions.

Most parents are not aware this is what’s happening until their child is already labeled a “problem child” and in his way to an alternative school for simply not sitting in his chair or completing an assignment.

Many districts and schools apply these policies to nonviolent and more subjective offenses, such as “willful defiance,” talking in class, tardiness, or truancy. Research shows that these policies result in negative consequences for student academic achievement, attainment, and welfare.

These policies are not only ineffective but also often applied in a discriminatory manner. Data provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection demonstrate that students of color and students with disabilities, among other historically underserved students, are disproportionately suspended and expelled compared with their White and nondisabled peers.

This was a key concern that the Obama administration discipline guidance was intended to address. Nevertheless, on December 21, 2018, the Trump administration rescinded this guidance and all supporting resources.

We cannot afford to sit back and do nothing.

Today’s students are our future senators, congressmen, presidents and leaders.

Effective Discipline Policies and Practices Designed to End Discrimination include:

  • Replacing zero-tolerance policies and the use of suspensions and expulsions for low-level offenses with strategies that teach social-emotional skills.
  • Providing targeted support for educators.
  • Eliminating disproportionate rates in student discipline through extensive trainings
  • Creating relationship-centered schools that support strong family and community engagement.

It can be and should be done! When did money become more important than humans or our future generation?

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