School Discipline Reform and Advocacy


For Black boys and young men of color, the impact of exclusionary school discipline is far reaching—disengaging them from academic and developmental opportunities and increasing the likelihood that they will be incarcerated later in life. Current research emphasizes the need for systemic reforms to discipline and school policing practices that disproportionately harm Black males.

“The origins of harsh and punitive school disciplinary policies can be traced to the 1980s and the launch of the ‘War on Drugs.’ As the federal government ramped up its efforts to criminalize drug offenses, young boys of color suffered catastrophic consequences.”

“Exclusionary discipline in the form of suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests are associated with negative student outcomes—such as lower academic performance, higher rates of dropout, failure to graduate on time, decreased academic engagement, and future disciplinary exclusion.”

“Communities must advocate at the state and local level to remove vague and subjective criminal offenses that allow for students to be prosecuted for ‘disturbing the school environment’ and ‘disorderly conduct.’ These offenses—rooted in racist history—have a disproportionate impact on boys and young men of color and are unfairly used to characterize typical youth behavior as criminal.”


  • Invest in educators, guidance counselors, psychologists, and program supports for young people rather than school police officers, metal detectors, and surveillance cameras.
  • Embrace restorative justice—which focuses on decreasing discipline disparities, engaging students and families, supporting social-emotional learning, and promoting accountability and two-way communication.
  • Pressure the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, as well as state civil rights departments, to vigorously investigate civil rights complaints.
  • Replace police with school-based accountability and safety measures, limit the ability of police to arrest students for typical youth behavior, demand prosecution and consequences when police harass or abuse students, and report civil rights violations when officers engage in discriminatory school-based arrests.