School Discipline Policies

School discipline laws regulate the use of expulsion and suspension as disciplinary measures for students. These laws determine the type of behavior that requires expulsion or suspension, the type of behavior that may be punished by expulsion or suspension, minimum and maximum lengths of expulsion or suspension, alternatives to exclusionary discipline, and reporting requirements, among other elements.

There has been a recent trend in the United States toward reevaluating school discipline policies that depend on expulsion or suspension. According to recent studies, students of color are disciplined and taken out of class at higher rates than their white peers, and black students are more likely to be punished for subjective offenses like "defiance." According to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, African-American students represented 19% of students in preschool but 47% of preschool children receiving one or more out of school suspensions. Similar rates persist through 12th grade, and put African-American students at higher risk for future involvement with the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

In 2012, the US departments of Education and Justice released school discipline guidance that emphasized the value of eliminating policies allowing children to be removed from classrooms for non-violent offences. Since then, 27 states have revised their laws with the intention of reducing expulsions and suspensions.

This map identifies and displays key features of state-level school discipline laws in effect from January 1, 2008 to June 1, 2018 across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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