Exclusionary Disciplinary Practices, School Climate, and Student Outcomes
Thursday, November 12, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Japengo (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Lauren Sartain, University of Chicago
Panel Chairs: Lauren Sartain, University of Chicago
Discussants: David Stevens, Education Northwest and John MacDonald, University of Pennsylvania
The issue of school discipline and safety is increasingly on the education policy agenda and in the eye of the media. In response to highly publicized violent crimes involving school-aged youth, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan jointly announced new national discipline guidelines that emphasized the use of alternative solutions to behavioral issues rather than relying on suspensions, expulsions, and arrests (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). School districts throughout the United States have paid increasing attention to whether (and how) district-level policy addressing student misconduct exacerbates the disparities in school exclusion that exist between students from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more advantaged peers.
Schools play an important role – they choose when to administer suspensions and involve police or when to use more restorative approaches to solve underlying issues and conflict, and the school approach can even mitigate the effects of violence and chaos that may occur in the lives of students outside the school building. Schools also exist in a policy climate that is increasingly scaling back the ways in which schools can administer exclusionary punishments. Large urban districts are enacting policies that are in the spirit of the national guidelines. Recent changes to policy in New York City’s public schools are couched in the spirit of fairness, suggesting that under previous policies students had been punished inconsistently and unnecessarily. In New York City, recent changes emphasize the use of social justice-based approaches, reduced the list of incidents for which a student could be suspended, and require the use of handcuffs to be reported. Public schools in Philadelphia are taking a more individualized approach to discipline, taking into account that many students face traumatic problems outside of school and these problems can affect behavior. Federal funding is also supporting the placement of social workers in a number of Philadelphia schools. Chicago Public Schools have been engaged in a variety of reforms over the last five years and, over that same period, have seen a decline in suspension rates for all students – though disparities remain for some of the most disadvantaged students.
This panel brings together a collection of papers from New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago that informs the policy debate around the use of suspensions and the role of the school plays in helping students navigate challenges they face outside the school building. The first paper provides an overview of disparities in suspensions in Chicago and describes how these disparities are driven by a handful of schools that serve low-achieving, African American students. Then there are two papers looking at the effects of policies seeking to reduce suspension use in schools like those described in the first paper. In the final paper, the authors look at the effects of violent crime on student performance and how the school can play a role in mitigating negative effects of neighborhood crime on student outcomes.