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Reducing Exclusionary Discipline and Ensuring School Safety: An Exploratory, Mixed-Methods Analysis of School Discipline Reform in Massachusetts

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2020
45 pages

This is a report on a mixed-methods study of school reforms in Massachusetts intended to reduce school exclusionary discipline and its effects on school climate and safety.




The study addressed 1) how school administrators and staff are responding to limitations on disciplinary actions that exclude students from school; 2) the nature of implementation challenges and unintended consequences faced by districts and individual schools; 3) how stakeholders in school climate perceive reforms’ implications for school climate and safety; and 4) the extent to which school administrative data and stakeholder perceptions of school climate are in accord. Based on the study’s results, the researchers recommend that Massachusetts state policymakers prioritize the identification of effective low-cost alternatives to exclusionary discipline; direct sustained resources to restorative justice practices and other evidence-based alternatives to suspension; and consider tradeoffs between reducing levels of discipline and disparities in discipline when selecting performance metrics. District and school leaders should involve staff, students and families when developing reforms; repeatedly communicate the purpose and mechanics of reforms; clearly and repeatedly communicate the purpose and mechanics of reforms; debrief teachers about actions taken that would have previously resulted in suspension; and use administrative data to critique the causes of racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline.




Date Published: January 1, 2020