In a July 19, 2011 press release the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announced that the results of its six year study on disciplinary actions involving nearly 1 million students in Texas public secondary schools revealed that nearly 60 percent of the 7th through 12th graders had been subjected to at least one school suspension or expulsion. The study results were published in the July 19 report, Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Academic and Juvenile Justice Outcomes, and includes findings that 15 percent of the students were suspended or expelled 11 times or more; only 3 percent of the suspensions/expulsions were for conduct for which the State mandates such disciplinary action; and African American students with certain educational disabilities were disproportionately disciplined for actions for which disciplinary action was discretionary. The suspensions and expulsions resulted in a loss of regular classroom time for disciplined students. Suspensions lasted for up to several consecutive days and disciplinary alternative educational placements lasted an average of 27 days. Alternative educational placements in the juvenile justice systems averaged 73 days.
In the report’s Executive Summary, the CSG Justice Center stated that, because the Texas school system is similar to those in other states, the study’s findings “have significance for – and relevance to – states across the country.” According to the study, 31 percent of the students who were suspended and/or expelled were held back a grade at least once, while only 5 percent of students with no disciplinary action were held back. Further, about 10 percent of the students who were suspended and/or expelled dropped out of school, and 59% of the students who were suspended and/or expelled 11 times or more did not graduate from high school during the study period. The study also found a strong correlation between students’ suspensions/expulsions and subsequent contacts with the juvenile justice system.
A July 19 New York Times article stated that the report “raises new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline” in that the study shows that the cited disciplinary actions are linked to lower graduation rates and higher rates of subsequent criminal activity. In addition, the study shows that minority students are more likely than white students to receive more severe punishment and that a disproportionate number of minority students are assigned to alternative placement programs where teachers may often be less qualified.
A July 19 Education Week article reported that, in recent years, Texas has taken steps to address the manner in which students are disciplined, including changes to some State in laws, such as requiring school districts to consider mitigating factors before making disciplinary decisions. The State education agency was also required to create minimum standards for its disciplinary alternative education programs. The CSG Justice Center encourages all states to invest in a state-of-the-art information system to track and improve disciplinary outcomes for students.
The full CSG Justice Center report and Executive Summary can be reviewed at http://justicecenter.csg.org/resources/juveniles.