January | February 2014

Justice and Education Departments Release School Discipline Resource Package

Through the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI), the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (ED) are working to end harsh and exclusionary discipline practices that push youth out of school and into the justice system. OJJDP is coordinating DOJ’s work on the initiative.

A groundbreaking study in Texas by the Council of State Governments Justice Center found that 97 percent of the students who were suspended or expelled were being punished for nonviolent behaviors, including minor infractions such as tardiness or dress code violations. Youth who were suspended or expelled were nearly three times as likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system the following year. In addition, the study revealed that students who were African American or who qualified for special education services were treated more harshly than were other students.

On January 8, 2014, DOJ and ED released a joint resource package for policymakers, legislators, educators, law enforcement professionals, healthcare practitioners, advocates, and researchers to assist them in creating safe and positive school climates. The package consists of four components:

  • Guidance on how schools can meet their legal obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating against students on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
  • Key principles and related action steps to advance state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline.
  • A directory of the federal technical assistance and other resources related to school discipline and climate that are available to schools and districts.
  • A compendium of laws and regulations related to school discipline in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “This guidance will promote fair and effective disciplinary practices that will make schools safe, supportive, and inclusive for all students. By ensuring federal civil rights protections, offering alternatives to exclusionary discipline, and providing useful information to school resource officers, we can keep America's young people safe and on the right path.”

Following are a few examples of OJJDP’s other current SSDI activities:

  • With funding from OJJDP and philanthropic partners, the Council of State Governments’ Discipline Consensus Project has brought together diverse stakeholders in the justice and education fields to develop recommendations to states and counties to minimize their dependence on suspension and expulsion to manage student behavior, improve students’ academic outcomes, reduce involvement in the juvenile justice system, and promote safe and productive learning environments. The consensus project is expected to release a final report with recommendations in the spring of 2014.
  • Working with partners in ED and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, OJJDP has launched a Webinar series that is increasing awareness about the school-to-prison pipeline and is providing practical examples of effective discipline policies. These Webinars have covered topics ranging from truancy and absenteeism to the role of school resource officers. The most recent Webinar, held in mid-January, examined the components of the resource package recently released to states and localities and provided an overview of implications for schools.

OJJDP is also providing financial assistance to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to evaluate the replication of successful school and court partnerships. This project is designed to reduce student referrals to court for nonserious behaviors by developing a curriculum and training that will be tested in up to 16 sites.

Resources:

To access OJJDP's Webinar series on school discipline, visit the State Training and Technical Assistance Web site. More information about the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, the Council of State Governments, and the School Discipline Consensus Project is available online.