Out-of-school suspension and expulsion are two of the most severe disciplinary consequences for student misbehavior. In cases of violent or dangerous behavior, suspending or expelling a student may be required by law or necessary for the safety of other students and school staff.
Across the nation, "zero-tolerance" discipline policies arose in the late 1980s in response to rising juvenile crime rates, and gathered momentum after such violent tragedies as the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. These policies have made suspension and expulsion commonplace—not only for the small number of serious threats to school safety, but also for the much larger number of nonviolent and subjective categories of behavioral infractions.
This paper, the second in OSI-Baltimore's Student Attendance series, demonstrates how the widespread use of exclusionary school discipline, specifically suspension and expulsion, adversely impacts children and youth. The paper begins with an overview of the types of policies affecting rates of suspension and expulsion. It then reviews current data to describe who is being suspended and what the harmful effects of widespread disciplinary exclusion are for young people.