There can be no question that schools have a right and a responsibility to maintain safe climates conducive to student learning. Controversy has arisen, however, concerning whether current disciplinary approaches are the best way to achieve that goal. The Children Left Behind Policy Briefs explore the complex topic of school discipline, addressing three questions concerning out-of-school suspension and expulsion.
The use of zero tolerance in schools is predicated upon a number of assumptions about school violence and the types of responses necessary to address it. In this paper, we examine available national data to assess how well these assumptions hold up.
National level data may be insufficient to describe the status of school discipline in Indiana. Thus, the second briefing paper specifically presents data on discipline, and perspectives on discipline, from Indiana schools and Indiana principals.
A number of programs and interventions have been identified as effective or promising for reducing the threat of youth violence and promoting safe school climates. But the presence of available research does not guarantee that those approaches can be used effectively at the local level. In the third briefing paper, we report on our conversations with Indiana principals about innovative programs for maintaining both school discipline and maximizing educational opportunity.
Summary & Recommendations
As our knowledge of available options for promoting a safe and effective school climate increases, it becomes apparent that there is no contradiction between the need to keep schools safe and the mandate to maximize educational opportunity for all children. The good news is that a variety of strategies have been validated at the national level that can help schools reach those goals. The better news is that courageous and innovative Indiana educators have begun to demonstrate success with those and other creative strategies.