Deconstructing School Discipline
In March 2014, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released a report on school discipline, which highlighted rates of out-of-school suspension. It found that students of color face disproportionately higher rates of this type of suspension than white students—in fact, black students are three times more likely to get suspended than white ones. Also at higher risk of being removed from school, or even being placed in seclusion, are students with disabilities.
A number of researchers have questioned the efficacy of punitive punishments, such as out-of-school suspension and expulsion, to alter student behavior. And organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have described suspension from public school and early experience with the juvenile justice system as a key piece of the “school-to-prison pipeline.” According to a 2007 report from the non-profit Texas Appleseed, for example, over 80 percent of the adults in Texas prisons had dropped out of school. A panel of child psychologists and educational policy experts joins guest host Manoush Zomorodi to discuss how rethinking discipline and punishment could prevent the alienation of students and break down this link between schools and prisons.
*This copy was updated on July 31, 2015. An earlier version focused on expulsion, whereas the report from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights addresses out-of-school suspension in addition to expulsion.
Russell Skiba is a professor of counseling and educational psychology and the director of the Equity Project at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
Edward Fergus is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy at New York University in New York City.
Yamanda Wright is a data scientist at Texas Appleseed in Austin.
Becky Fogel is a newscast host and producer at Texas Standard, a daily news show broadcast by KUT in Austin, Texas. She was formerly Science Friday’s production assistant.