For Immediate Release: March 7, 2016
Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

Building School Discipline Reform through State and Local Action

Alexandria, VA – Public schools across the country have witnessed suspensions, school-based arrests, and expulsions that disproportionately affect minority and special education students. A new NASBE policy update examines the causes of this unequal targeting and highlights the steps policymakers can take to reduce punitive practices. The report also illustrates how the data states already collect can improve school climate and ultimately student outcomes.

“As state policymakers strive to provide students with equal educational opportunities, they must look beyond test scores and graduation rates to assess the school environment more broadly and the role of discipline policy and practices within it,” argue NASBE’s Kimberly Charis and Geanette Foster in “State Policy’s Role in Reversing Trend toward Punitive Discipline.” Vague terminology, unclear rules and procedures, or misunderstandings about the role of law enforcement in schools all play a role in increasing discipline disparities and unnecessarily push many students into the juvenile justice system, Charis and Foster say.

Several sites are addressing these issues by helping local stakeholders stem the school-to-prison pipeline. Philadelphia’s School Diversion Program is a collaborative effort among disciplinary responders to ensure proper intervention and individualized support for students committing minor offenses. Early assessments indicate a 54 percent decrease in school-based arrests in the city’s school, in addition to a 17 percent decrease in behavioral incidents during the program’s first year.

In West Virginia, the state board of education launched a statewide school safety and climate initiative, collecting data from districts in order to create a toolkit of best practices for school districts and law enforcement agencies. The task force also developed a model memorandum of understanding between districts and law enforcement.

“School discipline reform holds promise for keeping students in school and on track to pursue college and careers,” say Charis and Foster. “State boards can build consensus on the importance of improving school climate by coordinating stakeholders and the judicial system to build agreement on what the right steps are to improve the system.”

Read “State Policy’s Role in Reversing Trend toward Punitive Discipline.”

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at