Laws & Guidance GENERAL
School Climate and Discipline

Rethinking Discipline

Teachers and students deserve school environments that are safe, supportive, and conducive to teaching and learning. Creating a supportive school climate—and decreasing suspensions and expulsions—requires close attention to the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students.

Administrators, educators, students, parents and community members can find on this site tools, data and resources to:

  • Increase their awareness of the prevalence, impact, and legal implications of suspension and expulsion;

  • Find basic information and resources on effective alternatives; and

  • Join a national conversation on how to effectively create positive school climates.


  • Upcoming #RethinkDiscipline What Communities Should Know about School Resource Officers
  • Join Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, U.S. Department of Education, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eve Hill, U.S. Department of Justice, for a live discussion with experts and practitioners regarding school resource officer programs on December 17, 2015 1:30 pm EST. Panelists will discuss the training needs of law enforcement officers in schools, as well as the appropriate role of officers in school safety.

    The hosts will be joined by:

    Chief Hassan Aden

    Director of Research and Programs, International Association of Chiefs of Police

    Moses Robinson

    School Resource Officer, Rochester Police Department

    Robert Runcie

    Superintendent, Broward County Public Schools

    Lisa Thurau

    Executive Director, Strategies for Youth

    Please watch the December 17 discussion at 1:30 pm ET:

    YouTube YouTube

  • New 2014 Discipline FAQs Translated into Vietnamese, Khmer, and Lao
  • Three new versions of ED's Discipline Frequently Asked Questions—translated into Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese—provide an overview of:

    • a Dear Colleague Letter that explains how public elementary and secondary schools can meet their legal obligations to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin;

    • Guiding Principles that describe three key principles to guide efforts to improve school climate and school discipline; and 

    • Various tools, including a Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources and an online Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations.

    Language Versions:


    School Discipline Guidance Package FAQs
    [PDF, 394KB]

    language assistance Espanol:

    Paquete de Orientación Sobre la Disciplina Escolar, Preguntas y Respuestas
    [PDF, 394KB]

    language assistance Khmer:

    សំណួរដែលគេសួរជារឿយៗ (FAQs) សម្រាប់កញ្ចប់ឯកសារនៃសេចក្ដីណែនាំអំពីវិន័យសាលា
    [PDF, 486KB]

    language assistance Lao:

    [PDF, 614KB]

    language assistance Vietnamese:

    Những câu hỏi thường gặp về Tài Liệu Hướng dẫn Kỷ luật Nhà trường
    [PDF, 355KB]

  • Supporting and Responding to Behavior:
    Evidence-Based Classroom Strategies for Teachers

  • This document summarizes evidence-based, positive, proactive, and responsive classroom behavior intervention and support strategies for teachers. These strategies should be used classroom-wide, intensified to support small group instruction, or amplified further for individual students.

  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports:
    Implementation Blueprint and Self-Assessment

  • The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Implementation Blueprint is a guide for leadership teams in the assessment, development, and execution of action plans. The outcome is the development of local capacity for sustainable, culturally and contextually relevant, and high fidelity implementation of multi-tiered practices and systems of support.

  • #RethinkDiscipline through Teacher Leadership
    alt="OSERS Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin moderating the #RethinkDiscipline in Early Childhood Settings Google Hangouts discussion"
  • Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, U.S. Department of Education, and Associate Director Lisa Thomas, American Federation of Teachers, will co-host a live online Q&A session for teachers nationwide on November 19, 2015 5:30 pm ET. We encourage teachers to tweet (with first name, city, and #RethinkDiscipline), or post by YouTube comment, questions regarding classroom management practices, alternatives to suspension and office referrals, and the role of teachers in reforming school discipline. The hosts will be joined by:

    Jeffery Camarillo
    Founding Director, Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, San Jose, CA
    Aman Dhanda
    2015 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow (6th Grade Teacher, Woodland Prairie Elementary School)
    JoLisa Hoover
    2015 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow (4th Grade Teacher, River Ridge Elementary School)
    Brandi Simonsen
    Associate Professor, University of Connecticut

    Please watch the discussion on:

    Google+ Google Hangout    YouTube YouTube

  • The Hidden Cost of Suspension: 
    How can kids learn if they're not in school?
  • Click on image below to explore three interactive maps illustrating out-of-school suspensions, by district. Zoom in and find your community!

    The Hidden Cost of Suspension: How can kids learn if they’re not in school? Link to interactive maps 

Suspension 101

Suspension impacts everyone

  • In 2011-2012, 3.45 million students were suspended out-of-school.
    (Civil Rights Data Collection, 2011-2012)

  • Of the school districts with children participating in preschool programs, 6% reported suspending out of school at least one preschool child.
    (Civil Rights Data Collection, 2011-2012)

  • Students with disabilities and students of color are generally suspended and expelled at higher rates than their peers.
    (Civil Rights Data Collection,2011-2012)

Suspensions don't work—for schools, teachers, or students

  • Evidence does not show that discipline practices that remove students from instruction—such as suspensions and expulsions—help to improve either student behavior or school climate.
    (Skiba, Shure, Middelberg & Baker, 2011)

Suspensions have negative consequences

  • Suspensions are associated with negative student outcomes such as lower academic performance, higher rates of dropout, failures to graduate on time, decreased academic engagement, and future disciplinary exclusion.
    (Achilles, McLaughlin, Croninger,2007; Arcia, 2006; Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2005; Costenbader & Markson, 1998; Lee, Cornell, Gregory, & Fan, 2011; Raffaele-Mendez, 2003; Rodney et al., 1999; Skiba & Peterson, 1999)

There are effective alternatives to suspension

  • Evidence-based, multi-tiered behavioral frameworks, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), can help improve overall school climate and safety.
    (Bradshaw, C., Koth, C.W., Thornton, L.A., & Leaf, P.J., 2009)

  • Interventions, school-wide and individual, that use proactive, preventative approaches, address the underlying cause or purpose of the behavior, and reinforce positive behaviors, have been associated with increases in academic engagement, academic achievement, and reductions in suspensions and school dropouts.
    (American Psychological Association, 2008; Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2005; Crone & Hawken, 2010; Liaupsin, Umbreit, Ferro, Urso, & Upreti, 2006; Luiselli, Putnam, Handler, & Feinberg, 2005; Putnam, Horner, & Algozzine, 2006; Skiba & Sprague, 2008; Theriot, Craun, & Dupper, 2010)

Last Modified: 12/10/2015