A new report from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center offers a comprehensive plan for educators, health officials, law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice officials, and others on how to improve school climate and address student misbehavior while keeping students engaged and providing a safe learning environment for all. The report, The School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged, is based on a consensus derived from three years of work and interviews with more than 700 individuals representing school administrators, teachers, behavioral health professionals, police, court leaders, probation officials, juvenile correctional administrators, parents, students, researchers, and policymakers from across the country.
“Anyone who wants to make students feel safer in school, improve high school graduation rates, and close the achievement gap needs to have a plan to reduce the number of youth who are suspended from school,” said Michael Thompson, director of the CSG Justice Center. “This report provides that roadmap, and it is endorsed by a broad spectrum of interest groups that have a significant stake in this issue.”
The issue of school discipline has moved to the forefront as the consequences of suspensions and expulsions have become clearer and new data has revealed stark disparities in how discipline policies have been applied. According to the report, millions of students—mostly in middle and high schools—are removed from their classrooms each year for minor misconduct. A disproportionately large percentage of those disciplined are students of color; students with disabilities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youth. Suspended students are at significantly higher risk of falling behind academically, dropping out, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system.
Increasingly, schools and school districts have started exploring alternative ways to discipline students that “hold youth accountable, address victims’ needs, and effectively improve both student conduct and adult responses,” the report notes. Most importantly, these approaches help keep students in school and engaged.
According to the report, local and state governments must help schools reduce the number of students suspended, expelled, and arrested while also providing conditions for learning in which all students feel safe, welcome, and supported. Meeting these goals, the report notes, “requires the combination of a positive school climate, tiered levels of behavioral interventions, and a partnership between education, policy, and court officials that is dedicated to preventing youth arrests or referrals to the juvenile justice system for minor school-based offenses.”
The report offers real-world guidance to local, state, and federal officials on how to support educators and minimize school systems’ dependence on suspension, expulsion, and arrest to manage student behavior. It also examines how schools can implement these solutions while also promoting safe and productive learning environments that improve academic outcomes for all students while reducing their involvement in the juvenile justice system.
“There is no question that there are times when removing students from the classroom or school campus is necessary in the interest of safety or order,” the report notes. “When suspensions and expulsions become the default response to misbehavior, however, students do not feel safe and supported, the achievement gap persists, other educational goals are undermined, and more kids become caught up in the juvenile justice system.”
The complete report is available at