REPORT: School Exclusionary Discipline Policies Expensive, Ineffective

A new report, Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts, by nonprofit Texas Appleseed shares the negative impacts of the exclusionary disciplinary methods in Texas schools. The study surveyed 11 school districts to discover the cost-benefit ratio of exclusionary discipline and how it affects students and communities. Exclusionary discipline includes out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to alternative education programs which leads to high human and financial costs.
In 2011, the Council of State Governments released a groundbreaking report documenting the negative impacts suspension and expulsion have on students in Texas. With many schools utilizing discretionary sentencing for minor violations, the high costs and negative impacts of exclusionary discipline are hindering the Texas public school system.
Excessive state money is being spent on out-of-school suspensions and school security rather than social work services. With 75% of violations strictly school code violations, the annual cost to educate one student through exclusionary discipline methods is three times the average cost of educating a student in the regular classroom.
The Texas Appleseed report gives the following recommendations to help reduce the human and financial costs of exclusionary discipline:

  • Limit out-of-school suspensions to the most egregious acts of misbehavior—those that impact school and student safety. Keeping more students in school would increase school districts’ funding reimbursements for average daily attendance.
  • Amend Student Codes of Conduct to limit the kinds of misbehavior that can trigger a DAEP referral to only those serious offenses where other forms of intervention have not proven successful or campus safety is at risk.
  • Target additional training in effective classroom management to administration and staff at individual campuses with high numbers of OSS, DAEP, and JJAEP referrals.
  • Implement cost-effective, evidence-based disciplinary programs, which have been proven to reduce out of classroom disciplinary referrals, limit classroom
    disruptions, and increase instructional time.
  • Evaluate discipline data and spending associated with campus policing, security, and monitoring services and target security services to where they are  truly needed—thereby freeing additional resources for counseling and social work services. Also, school police officers should receive specialized training to better prepare them to work in child-centered environments.

Though cost-saving consolidation and planning have been enforced in these districts, the extra funds are not being productively used to combat the issue through other positive disciplinary methods. According to the report, “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Social and Emotional Learning, and Restorative Justice are evidence-based, cost effective approaches shown to improve student behavior and academic success.” Appleseed recommends that Texas public schools invest in evidence-based Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports to reduce disciplinary referrals and boost student management, as well as Code of Conduct rewrites to ensure exclusionary discipline is only enforced when necessary.

Kat Shannon is a Digital Communications intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a student at the University of Oregon studying Public Relations, with a minor in Business Administration. She is an Oregon native and a California dreamer.  

Updated: February 08 2018