Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out. "Zero-tolerance" policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while high-stakes testing programs encourage educators to push out low-performing students to improve their schools' overall test scores. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.
We believe that children should be educated, not incarcerated. We are working to challenge numerous policies and practices within public school systems and the juvenile justice system that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.
A recent report by the Every Student Every Day Coalition and authored by DC Lawyers for Youth shed light on the overuse of suspension in District schools. Recent research has demonstrated that being excluded from the classroom for disciplinary reasons causes students to be less likely to advance in school and more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system. Data from the DC Public Schools (DCPS) and the Public Charter School Board (PCSB), reveal that the District issued over 18,000 suspensions during the 2011-12 school year and suspended over 13% of enrolled students at least once during the school year.
This report, "District Discipline: The Overuse of Suspension and Expulsion in the District of Columbia," examines DCPS and PCSB data to determine which students are most affected by the District’s overuse of school exclusion and which schools use these tactics the most. The report also makes recommendations for how the District can take steps to reduce its suspension and expulsion rates.