Educators consider several factors when setting discipline policy. Creating safe environments,
meeting the needs of individual students, administering punishment equitably, and deterring
behavior all play a part in discipline practices commonly used in k-12 schools.
With a lack of resources and crowded schools however, it is no wonder that administrators
suspend or expel 2 million high school students a year.
Exclusionary discipline to include out of school suspension (OSS) is a common tool used to
mitigate poor student behavior in k-12 schools throughout the United States.
The rise in OSS was fueled by the war on drugs and the get tough on crime campaigns of the
1980’s and 90’s when the nation’s fear of violence by young people soared. These campaigns
along with media coverage of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, caused school
districts to adopt zero tolerance discipline policies with the intent to erase, deter, and curb
student misbehavior on k-12 campuses.
In the wake of the Columbine massacre, the fear of the “teenage super predator” resulted in
federal funding of school resource officers while student support staff including counselors and
school psychologists were cut from tight district budgets. Furthermore, the 1994 Gun Free
Schools Act required states receiving federal funding to expel, for at least a year, any student
found bringing a weapon to school.
By the end of the 1990s, every school district in the country reported having a zero tolerance
policy contributing to the rise in the use of out of school suspensions.
Zero tolerance policies and the use of OSS began with the good intention to make schools safer
from violence, guns, and drugs. Over time however, these policies began to encompass a wide
variety of non-violent student misbehaviors. As a result, schools began suspending students for
class disruption, general disrespect, cell phone use, or chronic absenteeism.
Larger schools experience discipline challenges that smaller schools do not. Smaller schools
have the ability to cultivate better student-adult relationships that help mitigate bad behavior.
According to the 2017 Brown Center Report on American Education: Race and school, schools
with up to 1300 students had lower suspension rates than those with larger populations.
Research has shown that the use of OSS has not produced safer schools or deterred student
misbehavior. Instead the exclusion from school increases drop out rates and student
disenfranchisement, disproportionally affects students of color, and lowers academic
Increased Dropout Rates
Students who have been suspended from school are more likely to drop out. Suspension
disconnects students from a stable support system and erodes trust. This disconnection and lack
of trust can lead to higher drop out rates.
A Johns Hopkins University study found out of school suspension increased the likelihood of
students leaving school from 16 percent to 32 percent. A study conducted by researchers at
Columbia University found only one third of students who received a suspension during the first
three semesters of high school went on to graduate within four years.
The use of out of school suspensions disproportionately target students of color. Both African
American and Hispanic students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than
their white peers.
According to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, during the 2014-2015
school year, 75.7 percent of in-school suspensions in Mississippi involved black students who
make up 49.6 percent of the k-12 population. While there is an almost equal percentage of white
students in the state (45.7 percent), only 22.5 percent of in-school suspensions involved this
Several other states including Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana also had a
disproportionate number of suspensions for black students. These racial disparities are not the
result of different behavior but of different treatment.
Lower Academic Achievement
Out of school suspensions have a negative impact on student academic achievement. Students
with at least one OSS had lower grades on average than their non-suspended peers. Missed class
time and an erosion of the student school relationship contribute to this lower academic
Educators must shift from the use of exclusionary discipline practices and adopt positive
approaches to school discipline including Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS),
restorative justice and trauma informed care. These methods have shown to improve behavior,
academic achievement, and social-emotional learning. Further, they align with the ethical and
moral responsibilities of educators to improve the lives of young people. Andy Jordan Principal
has been reducing out of school suspensions and implementing PBIS and support systems for
schools as an administrator since 2014. For more information please email him at
email@example.com. For ideas on how to build relationship please see Principal
Andy Jordan's Genius Hour Blog or improving school culture with assemblies blog.
Blog Written By: Andy Jordan Principal
Here are 5 principal hacks that every principal or superintendent should use to make their job easier. Here are some more tools to add to your administrative toolbox.
1) Google Calendar: There are two musts that school administrators, principals, and superintendents must do to improve their time management with google calendars. The first is to create a special education calendar that your special education teachers will use to schedule all of their IEP meetings on. For larger districts this will allow the special education department to see all IEP meetings and not double book the school psychologist, social worker, principal, or speech pathologist. It will also allow special education teachers to just schedule the IEP meeting without having to send out emails to 3-5 IEP team members asking what time works best for them. Having this information auto-populate on your principal calendar instead of having to answer and accept meetings will save you time. The second important use of your google calendar is giving your Secretary access to your calendar. Allowing the building secretary to see and schedule appointments for you will also save you much needed time.
2) Voxer App: If you haven't already downloaded the voxer app I recommend you do it now. This walkie talkie app allows you to communicate and leave text messages and voice messages for other important team members within your district. It's instant communication and it speeds up communication. Best part about it is that the messages are retrackable and they can not be subject to freedom of information act. It's a great app that I use to communicate with other principals and superintendents around the state. I can leave a question for my professional colleagues and they get answer me whenever they are available. This is a must use tool to improve your communication and productivity.
3) Google Docs: If you have not switched your principal or superintendent files over to google docs you need to. Having the flexibility to work on a document from your work computer, home office computer, and on your phone has been a game changer for me. I've had many administrative meetings or informal conversations and being able to access all of my googledocs on my phone quickly to reference has increased my productivity. Not only that you can easily share documents and have other members of your administrative team work on your doc at the same time.
4) Scheduling Emails: If other principals and superintendents are like me I do a lot of my work late at night and on the weekends to try and stay ahead of the never ending job. Leading a positive culture in the building I don't want to send my teachers or secretary emails late at night or over the weekends. Just like Facebook if you use a google email address you can schedule your emails to go out on a certain day and time. Make sure you give your staff some space and respect their schedule. Don't email them over the weekend or late at night. If you use the paid feature you can also pause your inbox or select only certain people that can get into your inbox. When I was working on big projects I would pause all my incoming emails except for my main secretary and superintendent. This allowed me to be more productive during the workday.
5) Be Visible: Being active in your building and visible during passing periods and viable in the classrooms is crucial in being a good leader and running a good building. If you are locked up in your office all day you start getting out of touch of what is happening in your building. It might take a lot of your time to get out and to be active but it is certainly time well invested. Anytime that you have meetings outside of your building or if you are gone for most of the day make sure to do a walk through in every classroom at least once in the morning so you are visible and people know you are in the building. Same thing if you have been gone most of the day when you get back to the school make sure to do a quick walk through to ensure that people see you. They say students misbehave when the teacher is absent this is true of the administrator if they know the principal is gone they tend to push the limits more so make sure you are seen and they know you are there even if your not.
Blog written by: Principal Andy Jordan
Andy Jordan, Ed.S.
Andy Jordan is a first generation college graduate who has dedicated his career to improving schools and fighting educational equality. Please follow and comment as we discuss the educational process.