Skip Navigation
small NCES header image
Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012
NCES 2013-036
2013

Indicator 19: Serious Disciplinary Actions Taken by Public Schools

During the 2009–10 school year, 39 percent of public schools took at least one serious disciplinary action against a student for specific offenses. A total of 433,800 serious disciplinary actions were taken by public schools during this period.

In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, public school principals were asked to report the number of disciplinary actions their schools had taken against students for specific offenses. The student offenses were physical attacks or fights; 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.

During the 2009–10 school year, 39 percent of public schools (32,300 schools) took at least one serious disciplinary action—including suspensions lasting 5 days or more, removals with no services for the remainder of the school year (i.e., expulsions), and transfers to specialized schools—for specific offenses (table 19.1).

Out of all offenses reported, physical attacks or fights prompted the largest percentage of schools (29 percent) to respond with at least one serious disciplinary action (figure 19.1 and table 19.1). In response to other offenses by students, 20 percent of schools reported that they took disciplinary action for the distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs; 13 percent took action for the use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device; 9 percent did so for the distribution, possession, or use of alcohol; and 3 percent did so for the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device.

During the 2009–10 school year, the percentage of public schools that took serious disciplinary actions increased with school level. A higher percentage of high schools (83 percent) took at least one serious disciplinary action than did middle schools (67 percent) and primary schools (18 percent). Combined schools (schools that provide instruction at both elementary and secondary grades) took at least one serious disciplinary action at a higher percentage (49 percent) than primary schools, but at a lower percentage than either middle schools or high schools. This pattern by school level was generally observed for disciplinary actions taken in response to specific offenses as well. For example, 66 percent of high schools took serious disciplinary actions in response to distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs, compared with 37 percent of middle schools, 23 percent of combined schools, and 2 percent of primary schools.

A total of 433,800 serious disciplinary actions were taken by public schools during the 2009–10 school year. Most of these reported disciplinary actions were taken in response to physical attacks or fights (265,100 actions). The number of disciplinary actions taken in response to the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device (5,800 actions) was smaller than for other offenses reported. Of the serious disciplinary actions taken during the 2009–10 school year, 74 percent were suspensions for 5 days or more, 20 percent were transfers to specialized schools, and 6 percent were removals with no services for the remainder of the school year.

Greater percentages of out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 days or more were imposed upon students in response to physical attacks or fights (81 percent) and the distribution, possession, or use of alcohol (74 percent) than were imposed in response to the other offenses covered in the survey (ranging from 55 to 62 percent; figure 19.2). Greater percentages of removals with no services for the remainder of the school year were imposed upon students in response to the use or possession of a firearm or explosive device (22 percent) than were imposed in response to other offenses reported (ranging from 4 to 9 percent). Greater percentages of transfers to specialized schools were imposed in response to the distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs (32 percent) and the use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device (29 percent) than were imposed in response to the distribution, possession, or use of alcohol (22 percent) and physical attacks or fights (14 percent).

The percentage of schools taking at least one serious disciplinary action declined between 1999–2000 and 2009–10 from 54 to 39 percent (figure 19.3, table 19.2, and table 19.3). This same pattern of decline held true for the percentage of schools taking at least one serious disciplinary action for physical attacks or fights between 1999–2000 (35 percent) and 2009–10 (29 percent). No linear trends were detected in the percentages of schools that took at least one serious disciplinary action for other offenses over time between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, nor were measurable differences detected in the percentages between the two most recent survey years.

This indicator repeats information from the 2011 Indicators of School Crime and Safety report. For more information: Tables 19.1 and 19.2, and Neiman (2011), (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2011320).


Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey

or

No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.