Lost Opportunities: How Disparate School Discipline Continues to Drive Differences in the Opportunity to Learn

Research Rundown Issue: October '20
Publisher: The Center for Civil Rights Remedies and the Learning Policy Institute
Date Published: October '20


Analyzing 2015-16 discipline data from the U.S. Office of Civil Rights researchers found that students of color—particularly Black students—and students with special needs continue to be disproportionately suspended, and as a result, are missing more in-class instruction. This is particularly true at the secondary level. Black secondary students lost 103 days of instruction per 100 students compared to 21 days for white students. Students with special needs at the secondary level lost 68 days of instruction, which is about twice as many as secondary students without disabilities. The researchers also found that middle and high school students lose five times the number of instructional days due to out-of-school suspensions compared to elementary school students. The study ends with recommendations to address these disparities:

  • Eliminate unnecessary removals;
  • Switch to more effective policies and practices that serve an educational purpose; and
  • Review and respond to discipline disparities to promote more equitable outcomes.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

Minnesota’s history of disproportionately suspending and expelling students of color and students with special needs–often for similar actions as peers who receive nonexclusionary discipline interventions–has been extensively documented. Black students receive 38% of all disciplinary actions, despite only being 11.3% of the student population, and students with special needs receive 42.3% of all disciplinary actions, despite only being 14.6% of the student population. With concerns about discipline practices in COVID-19, districts should make sure their discipline practices are not disproportionately impacting students of color and students with special needs.

Read the study