Report on Discipline

Education, Racial Justice


Discipline Rates Drop, But Disconcerting Disparities Remain

September 27, 2018

Boston, MA – A comprehensive report issued today by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice examines the state of school discipline in Massachusetts.  The report, Unfinished Business, shows that while measurable progress has been made in reducing school suspensions over the past several years, this progress has plateaued, and our most vulnerable students remain disproportionately affected.

“Massachusetts has taken steps forward on school discipline, but much work remains to be done,” stated Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee.  “In particular, Black and Latino students, students with disabilities, and English language learners are still far more likely than their peers to lose class time for discipline, especially for more minor incidents.”

In 2014, Massachusetts public schools began implementing Chapter 222, a law to reduce reliance on exclusionary school discipline. Massachusetts did so with good reason: being suspended predicts dropping out, and almost two-thirds of the state’s out-of-school suspensions from the prior year were for minor incidents – the cause for which Black and Latino students were most likely to be suspended.  Today’s report examines a wealth of data collected since that time, and makes the following key findings:

  • Discipline rates have dropped for all students, but progress has plateaued.
  • Black and Latino students, students with disabilities, and English language learners disproportionately lose class time for discipline, often for minor incidents.
  • While charter school discipline rates have dropped significantly, charters remain among the highest disciplining schools, along with alternative schools, therapeutic day schools, and, in general, schools in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley.
  • Due to off-the-books suspensions, school-based arrests, and other types of removal, Massachusetts’ disciplinary data does not tell the whole story on school discipline.

“We still have a long way to go in Massachusetts in order to ensure that all of our children have equal educational opportunity,” stated Espinoza-Madrigal.  “Together with our community allies, the Lawyers’ Committee will continue to tackle these critical issues of educational equity until that goal is realized.”