2016 Children’s Mental Health Report
Suspension and Zero Tolerance
The use of out-of-school suspension nearly doubled from 1.7 million in 1974 to 3.1 million in 2001.²²
In the same period, enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools increased just 7.5%, from 44 million to 47.6 million.²³
One study found that 95% of out-of-school suspensions were for nonviolent, minor disruptions such as tardiness or disrespect.²⁴
A Texas study of one million students over the course of six school years found the following:
- 54% experienced at least one in-school suspension over the study period.
- 31% experienced an out-of-school suspension.
- 3% were state mandated suspensions and expulsions.
- 97% of suspensions were discretionary, in response to conduct codes.
Compared to their typical peers, suspended students were two times as likely to repeat a grade, and three times more likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system within a year.²⁵
These trends are compounded for minority children, particularly those with mental health and learning disorders. More than 25% of boys of color served under IDEA receive an out-of-school suspension.
- Black children make up 18% of preschool enrollment, but represent 48% of preschool children who have received more than one out-of-school suspension
- Although black students represent 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest.²⁶
²² Wald and Losen.
²⁴ US Department of Education. (2014) Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline.
²⁶ US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Civil Rights Data Collection: Data Snapshot (School Discipline). (2014).