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; and

  • Find basic information and resources on effective alternatives.


Legal Limitations on the Use of Restraint or Seclusion in Schools
The U.S. Department of Education released guidance to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities. The Dear Colleague Letter and Fact Sheet: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities offer additional information about the legal limitations on use of restraint or seclusion to assist school districts in meeting their obligations to students with disabilities. The Department’s May 15, 2012, Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document suggested best practices to prevent the use of restraint or seclusion, recommending that school districts never use physical restraint or seclusion for disciplinary purposes and never use mechanical restraint, and that trained school officials use physical restraint or seclusion only if a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others.

Improving Equity Under IDEA
The U.S. Department of Education published the final regulations to improve equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and to address widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities.

Letter to States Calling for an End to Corporal Punishment in Schools
The Department released a letter urging state leaders to end the use of corporal punishment in schools, a practice repeatedly linked to harmful short-term and long-term outcomes for students.

 Letter to States Calling for an End to Corporal Punishment in Schools [PDF, 224KB]

Guidance Package Addresses the Behavioral Needs of Students with Disabilities
The Department released guidance to schools on ensuring equity and providing behavioral supports to students with disabilities

  • Dear Colleague Letter on the Inclusion of Behavioral Supports in Individualized Education Programs
    The Department has released a significant guidance document in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), which emphasizes the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need them. It also clarifies that the repeated use of disciplinary actions may suggest that many children with disabilities may not be receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and supports.

  • OSERS Blog: Moment to Moment and Year to Year: Preventing Contemporary Problem Behavior in Schools
    Effective education faces many challenges: chronic absenteeism, dropout, diversity inequities, antisocial conduct and violence, emotional and behavioral disorders, suspensions and expulsions. The authors suggest that the solution emphasize the adoption of a two-prong prevention approach that considers informed decision making, selection of evidence-based practices, and implementation of culturally relevant tiered systems of support. Read more on the OSERS Blog.


Last Modified: 06/24/2022