Study Finds That School Zero-Tolerance Discipline Policies Do More Harm Than Good

UMBC_SealA new study by F. Chris Curran, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, finds that zero-tolerance public school disciplinary policies may produce racial disparities in school suspensions and expulsions which could hinder the academic success rates of African American students. Furthermore, the study finds that these policies have had little effect on improving school safety.

Dr. Curran writes in the article that “the study showed that state laws requiring schools to have zero tolerance policies increased suspension rates for all students. Second, suspension rates increased at a higher rate for African-American students, potentially contributing to racial disparities in discipline. Finally, principals reported few decreases in problem behaviors in schools, suggesting that the laws did not improve the safety and order of schools.”

The suggests that state zero tolerance laws may be resulting in more students, particularly students of color, being excluded from the learning environment while failing to improve the school setting for those students who remain. “Principals report few decreases in problem behaviors such as fighting, drug use, or disrespect as a result of these laws,” says Dr. Curran.

The study, “Estimating the Effect of State Zero Tolerance Laws on Exclusionary Discipline, Racial Discipline Gaps, and Student Behavior,” was published on the website of the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. It may be accessed here.

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