Secretary Duncan joined Attorney General Holder yesterday for the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention forum to share the results of a groundbreaking study on school discipline and to announce the launch of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. The Initiative is a new step in improving school discipline procedures and ending the “school to prison pipeline” that affects far too many of the nation’s students.
The study by the Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute examines the disciplinary records of all Texas seventh-graders for a six-year period beginning in the year 2000. First, the study found that almost 6 out of 10 students, a disproportionate number of them African-Americans or students designated as suffering from an “emotional disturbance,” were suspended or expelled between 7th and 12th grade. These students were subsequently more likely to be held back a grade level or to develop criminal records. However, the study also showed that discipline varied significantly between schools, even if the schools had similar ethnic or economic demographics. All told, the report revealed the urgent need for more thoughtful leadership in determining school discipline policies.
“When our young people start getting locked up and getting criminal records, they start getting locked into poverty,” Secretary Duncan said. The Secretary attributed the disparity to a lack of information about effective ways of disciplining students.
Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder emphasized that juvenile delinquency could be corrected by providing schools with more information on how to improve troubled students’ behavior, without causing them to drop out of school and end up “falling through the cracks.”
Duncan and Holder then outlined the goals of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. The goals are to:
- Build the consensus for action among federal, state and local education and justice stakeholders;
- Collaborate on research and data collection;
- Promote positive disciplinary options to both keep kids in school and improve the climate for learning; and
- Promote awareness and knowledge about evidence-based and promising policies and practices among state judicial and education leadership.
Duncan and Holder called for more leadership and collaboration in producing sound disciplinary policies in America’s classrooms.
“So many of these young people need a helping hand, need assistance, but also need clear boundaries and clear guidelines,” said Secretary Duncan. “What they don’t need is to be pushed out the door or to start a criminal record. We need to be a lot more thoughtful in how we address this.”