Recent research has shown that exclusionary school discipline policies, such as suspension and expulsion, are disproportionately applied to students based on categories such as race, gender and disability status. For instance, Black students are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than their white peers. Research has also documented that even when Black and white students have behaved in the same way, teachers perceive classroom misbehavior differently based on student race, which can contribute to racial disparities in discipline. Recent research has also documented an association between experience with exclusionary discipline and negative educational attainment impacts, as well as an increased likelihood of incarceration and arrest as an adult.

With an increased recognition of these discipline disparities and the significant impact of school discipline on the lives of students, many state policymakers are considering or are pursuing changes in school discipline policy. This resource provides much-needed context for these considerations of school discipline by outlining current state statute and regulations in an easily accessible format. It compiles information on school discipline policy from statute and regulation across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition to updating information gathered in a previous version, this 50-State Comparison includes a new data point on state requirements to disaggregate data collected on the use of discipline by race, ethnicity, gender or any other category. Availability of information on possible discipline disparities may inform future action to address such disparities. It is important to note that this 50-State Comparison covers state statute and regulations only. In many states, school discipline policies are created and applied at the district or school level, and those nuances are not captured in this scan of state-level policies.

Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach specific school discipline policies. Each page contains contextual and overview information, as well as a link back to this landing page. Alternatively, view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

50-State Comparisons

  1. What may a student be suspended or expelled for?
  2. What must a student be suspended or expelled for?
  3. What limitations are placed on the use of suspension and/or expulsion?
  4. Which nonpunitive approaches, if any, are outlined as alternatives to suspension and/or expulsion? 
  5. Which alternative schooling options, if any, are available for students who are suspended or expelled?
  6. When is a school required to involve law enforcement on school grounds?
  7. Is corporal punishment permitted?
  8. Does the state outline reporting requirements for suspension and/or expulsion?
  9. Does the state specify requirements to report discipline data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender or any other category?

Key Takeaways

States use statute and regulations to substantiate which behaviors may result in a student being suspended or expelled, as well as to specify which behaviors must result in a student being suspended or expelled, with varying degrees of discretion allowed at local levels. Many states also place limitations on the use of suspension and expulsion. For instance, at least 15 states and the District of Columbia place some sort of limitation on the use of suspension and expulsion based on student age or grade level.

In addition to limitations on uses of exclusionary discipline, states often use statute and regulations to encourage or require certain alternatives to suspension and expulsion. At least 37 states and the District of Columbia outline alternatives to suspension and expulsion or nonpunitive supports that are either available or encouraged. Commonly cited approaches include community service, conflict resolution, counseling, peer mediation and positive behavioral interventions. Students who are suspended or expelled are often allowed to continue receiving educational services in an alternative setting. At least 48 states and the District of Columbia have policies in statute or regulation requiring, allowing or making available alternative schooling options for these students.

Sometimes school and district personnel must involve law enforcement in disciplinary actions, which may include reporting specific offenses or directing school resource officers to address certain infractions. For instance, most states require criminal behavior, firearm/weapon possession and controlled substance possession or use to be reported to law enforcement. Corporal punishment is permitted in at least 18 states, at least 11 of which explicitly give local jurisdictions responsibility for either permitting or prohibiting its use.

At least 39 states and the District of Columbia have outlined reporting requirements on the use of suspension and expulsion in statute and regulation. Sometimes these reporting requirements are specific to certain types of infractions, as seen in at least nine states for cases of unauthorized firearm possession. In addition to generally reporting on suspension and expulsion use, at least 22 states and the District of Columbia require such reported data to be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender or some other category, allowing the possibility of discipline disparities to be documented and addressed.

Related Resources:

The Status of School Discipline in State Policy

Suspension and Expulsion

Alternative School Discipline Strategies

Ensuring Equity in School Discipline

Understanding the Nuances of the School Discipline Debate

How are States Shifting School Discipline Policies?

 PUBLISHED: May 17, 2021

 AUTHOR(S): , ,



 STATE(S): Nationwide

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