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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010
NCES 2011-002
November 2010

Indicator 19: Serious Disciplinary Actions Taken by Public Schools

Forty-six percent of public schools (approximately 38,500 schools) took a serious disciplinary action against a student for specific offenses during the 2007–08 school year. Approximately 767,900 serious disciplinary actions were taken by public schools during that period.

In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, public school principals were asked to report the number of disciplinary actions their schools took against students for specific offenses. The offenses included physical attacks or fights; insubordination; distribution, possession, or use of alcohol; distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs; use or possession of a firearm or explosive device; and use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device.

Forty-six percent of public schools (approximately 38,500 schools) took at least one serious disciplinary action against a student—including suspensions lasting 5 days or more, removals with no services (i.e., expulsions), and transfers to specialized schools—for specific offenses during the 2007–08 school year (table 19.1).

The largest percentage of schools that reported taking a disciplinary action in 2007–08 did so in response to a physical attack or fight: 31 percent of schools took a serious disciplinary action for physical attacks or fights (figure 19.1 and table 19.1). In response to other offenses, 21 percent of all schools took serious disciplinary action for insubordination; 19 percent for distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs; 15 percent took action as a result of use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device; 10 percent did so for distribution, possession, or use of alcohol; and 3 percent did so for use or possession of a firearm or explosive device.

A total of 767,900 serious disciplinary actions were taken during the 2007–08 school year. The largest number of disciplinary actions were taken for insubordination (327,100 actions) and physical attacks or fights (271,800). A smaller number of disciplinary actions were taken in response to the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device (5,200 actions) than for other offenses covered in the survey.

Of the 767,900 serious disciplinary actions taken during the 2007–08 school year, 76 percent were suspensions for 5 days or more, 19 percent were transfers to specialized schools, and 5 percent were removals with no services for the remainder of the school year (figure 19.2). Although the most common disciplinary action taken was suspensions lasting 5 days or more, differences in serious disciplinary actions taken varied by the type of offense. Generally, greater percentages of out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 days or more were in response to insubordination (82 percent); physical attacks or fights (79 percent); and the distribution, possession, or use of alcohol (74 percent) than were in response to the other offenses covered in the survey (ranging from 53 to 60 percent). Greater percentages of removals with no services for the remainder of the school year were in response to the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device (18 percent); distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs (9 percent); and use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device (8 percent) than were in response to the other offenses covered in the survey (ranging from 4 to 5 percent). Greater percentages of transfers to specialized schools were in response to the distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs (36 percent); the use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device (32 percent); and the use or possession of firearm or explosive device (29 percent) than were in response to the other offenses covered in the survey (ranging from 13 to 22 percent).

Although the overall percentage of schools taking a serious disciplinary action was lower in 2003–04 (46 percent) than in 1999–2000 (54 percent), there has been no measurable change since 2003–04 (figure 19.3 and table 19.2). This same general pattern held both for the percentage of schools taking serious disciplinary actions for the offense of physical attacks or fights and for the offense of insubordination.

Between the two most recent survey years (2005–06 and 2007–08), there was no measurable difference in the percentage of schools that took a serious disciplinary action in response to the distribution, possession, or use of alcohol or illegal drugs. A smaller percentage of schools reported taking a serious disciplinary action for the use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device in 2007–08 (15 percent) than in 2005–06 (19 percent). Similarly, a smaller percentage of schools reported taking a serious disciplinary action for the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device in 2007–08 (3 percent) than in 2005–06 (5 percent).

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