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School Discipline, Safety, and Climate: A Comprehensive Study in New York City

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2019
89 pages

The purposes of this study of 804 New York City public middle and high schools were 1) to identify the independent impacts of school suspension and to determine any effects of student, school, and neighborhood characteristics; and 2) to determine the relationship of restorative justice and other positive practices to student behavior and school culture.


The research strategies involved a quantitative study that drew on educational and justice data on all public middle and high school students in New York City, as well as case studies of five public schools selected because they exemplified positive practices and had representative student populations. The study determined that student characteristics (race/ethnicity, sex, disability, and poverty) were related to the causes and consequences of exclusion from school, even when controlling for other important factors, such as incident severity or school characteristics. Race/ethnicity (being Black, followed closely by being Hispanic) was the strongest predictor of school suspension. The qualitative case studies indicate there may be a less punitive way to address discipline and associated student disparities. The case study schools relied extensively on restorative justice, which can be broadly defined as a holistic approach to discipline that aims to prevent or repair harm through inclusive processes that involve a focus on the fostering of healthy relationships, empathy, and accountability among staff and students. Efforts may include peer-led mediation, mentoring, counseling, wrap-around services, and other supportive efforts; however, this report advises that restorative justice requires significant resource investment and sufficient time to ensure whole-school cultural change, paired with a commitment to a fundamental transformation in views of discipline and safe schools. 13 tables, 65 references, and appended supplementary data and design materials

Date Published: September 1, 2019