Unfair School Discipline Bad Kids? Worse Policy

Ocr Data On Suspensions

Nearly 40 years later, not only do racial disparities persist but suspensions are used more widely and at an earlier age. More than 5,000 preschool students were given out-of-school suspensions in 2011-12—and more than half of those students were suspended more than once. As Vera found in a recent review of zero tolerance in schools, these policies make neither schools nor students safer.  

As we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education this spring, it may be instructive to evaluate the recent data from the Office of Civil Rights in light of the broader issue of racial segregation in public education. As cities, suburbs and neighborhoods have become more racially and ethnically integrated over the last generation, schools have retained high levels of segregation. And segregated remains unequal. How can public policymakers support integrated districts and schools in their efforts to fairly educate all students?

In the contemporary policy arena, such questions are not as urgent or as popular. However, a new report from the Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA reminds us that close to home in New York, integration remains elusive. The most recent analysis of schools in New York shows them to be the most racially segregated in the nation.

There is broad political support for closing the opportunity gap for students of color. Since there is evidence that segregated schools and harsh school discipline thwart these students’ chances for success, policymakers need to find ways to address both.

Safety and order in schools does not have to come at the cost of fairness. While all youth should be held responsible for their behavior, adults should take responsibility for their behavior too. In responding to young people in school, parents, teachers, advocates and administrators can work together in the best interests of all children to reform and improve school discipline.


Series: Target 2020

Justice is on the Ballot

We elect federal leaders, district attorneys, mayors, local legislators, and sheriffs—people who shape how our communities ensure public safety and secure justice.

Election Day is in six weeks, but in communities across the United States, voting for the 2020 election is already underway. In every race, from the federal to the state to the local level, it’s clear: Justice is on the ballot. Our votes can help ensure due process for immigrants facing deportation, address overpolicing in communities of color and ...

Blog Post
  • Nicholas Turner
    Nicholas Turner
September 22, 2020
Blog Post

No Access to Justice

Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness and Jail

On any given night in the United States, more than 550,000 people experience homelessness. The U.S. legal system criminalizes survival behaviors associated with homelessness and fails to acknowledge that people who are homeless face impossible odds within the legal process. Black people, who already face a disproportionate risk of homelessness, are ...

  • Madeline Bailey, Erica Crew, Madz Reeve
August 12, 2020