Interrogating Successive School Discipline Reforms as Levers for Promoting Racial Equity

Do state laws limiting or prohibiting school expulsion reduce schools’ use of expulsion and racial disparities in expulsion rates?

Research has demonstrated a persistent link between exclusionary school discipline and later involvement in the justice system. It has also shown that students of color, boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled from school. Under increasing pressure from federal agencies, many states have implemented reforms to address racial disproportionality in school discipline. However, state policies often focus on decreasing the overall rate of exclusionary discipline without an intentional focus on mitigating racial, gender, or disability inequities. Illinois implemented laws that limited the use of exclusionary discipline for K-12 students in 2016, and for birth-to-5 programs in 2018. Using multiphase latent growth curve models, Zinsser and colleagues will examine the impact of these successive reforms on racial inequalities in school suspensions and expulsions in grades K-12. They will also collect qualitative data via interviews and site visits to explore why the reforms had a greater impact on reducing racial inequalities in some districts compared to others. Findings could shed light on how state laws aimed at reducing exclusion and their implementation at the district level may reduce racial disciplinary inequalities.