Indicator 19: Serious Disciplinary Actions Taken by Public Schools
(Last Updated: May 2016)

During the 201112 school year, 3.4 million public school students in the United States received in-school suspensions and 3.2 million received out-of-school suspensions. The percentage of Black students receiving out-of-school suspensions (15 percent) was higher than the percentages for students of any other racial/ ethnic group.

This indicator uses two different universe data collections to provide information on discipline in public schools. First, data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) are used to discuss the number and percentage of students receiving various disciplinary actions (e.g., suspensions, expulsions, school-related arrests). The indicator then uses state data from the EDFacts data collection to discuss the number and rate of discipline incidents related to alcohol, drugs, violence, or weapons possession that resulted in a student being removed from the education setting for at least an entire school day. Readers should take note of the differing data sources and terminology.

The CRDC provides data on the number of students who were disciplined during the 201112 school year by the type of action taken: suspensions (both in-school and out-of-school), expulsions, referrals to law enforcement,59 school-related arrests,60 and corporal punishments.61 During the 201112 school year, 3.4 million students in the United States received in-school suspensions and 3.2 million received out-of-school suspensions (table 19.1). The number of students who were suspended can also be expressed as a percentage of students enrolled.62 Seven percent of students received an in-school suspension and 6 percent received an out-of-school suspension in 201112 (table 19.2). Less than 1 percent of students received each of the following disciplinary actions: referral to law enforcement, corporal punishment, expulsion, and school-related arrest.

The CRDC also provides information on characteristics of students receiving disciplinary actions, including students' sex and race/ethnicity.63 There were differences by both sex and race/ethnicity in the percentage of students who received out-of-school suspensions in 201112. The percentage of Black students receiving out-of-school suspensions (15 percent) was higher than the percentages for students of all other racial/ethnic groups (figure 19.1). In contrast, a lower percentage of Asian students (1 percent) received out-of-school suspensions than students from any other racial/ethnic group.

A higher percentage of male students (9 percent) than female students (4 percent) received an out-of-school suspension in 201112. This pattern of higher percentages of male than female students being suspended held across all racial/ethnic groups. In addition, differences by race/ethnicity for male and female students were similar to the overall differences by race/ethnicity. Among males, the percentage of Black students who received an out-of-school suspension (20 percent) was almost twice the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native students (10 percent), and more than twice the percentages of students of Two or more races (9 percent), Hispanic students (8 percent), White students (6 percent), Pacific Islander students (5 percent), and Asian students (2 percent). Similarly, the percentage of Black female students who received an out-of-school suspension (11 percent) was more than twice the percentages of female students of any other race/ethnicity. The pattern of greater percentages of Black males and females receiving disciplinary actions than males and females of any other race/ethnicity was also evident for student expulsions.


Figure 19.1. Percentage of public school students enrolled who received out-of-school suspensions, by race/ethnicity and sex: 201112

Figure 19.1. Percentage of public school students enrolled who received out-of-school suspensions, by race/ethnicity and sex: 201112

NOTE: Excludes data for students with disabilities served only under Section 504. The percentage of students receiving a disciplinary action is calculated by dividing the cumulative number of students receiving that type of disciplinary action for the entire 201112 school year by the student enrollment based on a count of students taken on a single day between September 27 and December 31. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), "201112 Discipline Estimations by State" and "201112 Estimations for Enrollment."


The CRDC allows for state-level comparisons of the percentage of students who received various disciplinary actions. In the majority of states, between 3 and 10 percent of students received an out-of-school suspension during the 201112 school year (table 19.3). In Hawaii, North Dakota, and Utah, the percentage of students receiving an out-of-school suspension was less than 3 percent. More than 10 percent of students received an out-of-school suspension in the District of Columbia, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Delaware.

As part of the EDFacts data collection, state education agencies (SEAs) report the number of discipline incidents resulting in the removal of a student for at least an entire school day for specific reasons: possession or use of alcohol on school grounds, possession or use of tobacco or illicit drugs on school grounds, a violent incident with or without physical injury, and weapons possession. Unlike the CRDC, where the reasons for disciplinary actions are not available, the EDFacts data can be used to examine the magnitude of the specific types of discipline incidents listed above.64 SEAs compile these data based on incidents that were reported by their schools and school districts.65 SEAs are not required to report discipline incidents that are not a result of alcohol, drugs, violence, or weapons possession.


Figure 19.2. Percentage distribution of discipline incidents resulting in removal of a student from a regular education program for at least an entire school day, by discipline reason: 201314

Figure 19.2. Percentage distribution of discipline incidents resulting in removal of a student from a regular education program for at least an entire school day, by discipline reason: 201314

1 Includes violent incidents with and without physical injury.
NOTE: Data on discipline incidents are only available for incidents that fall within the categories shown in the figure. Additional data on other discipline incidents that resulted in removal of a student from a regular education program for at least an entire school day are not available. Includes 49 states and the District of Columbia. Data for Vermont were unavailable for 201314.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, EDFacts file 030, Data Group 523, extracted October 14, 2015, from the EDFacts Data Warehouse (internal U.S. Department of Education source).


During the 201314 school year, there were 1.3 million reported discipline incidents in the United States for reasons related to alcohol, drugs, violence, or weapons possession (table 19.4).66 About 78 percent of these discipline incidents were violent incidents with or without physical injury (figure 19.2). Fifteen percent of these discipline incidents were illicit drug related, 5 percent were weapons possessions, and 2 percent were alcohol related.

The number of discipline incidents can also be expressed as a ratio of discipline incidents per 100,000 students. During the 2013-14 school year, there were 2,615 reported discipline incidents related to alcohol, drugs, violence, or weapons possession per 100,000 students in the United States.

The total number of discipline incidents for reasons related to alcohol, drugs, violence, and weapons possession varies widely across states, due in large part to states' differing populations. Therefore, the ratio of such discipline incidents per 100,000 students can provide a more comparable indication of the frequency of these incidents across states. The majority of states had ratios between 500 and 5,000 alcohol-, drug-, violence-, or weapons possession-related discipline incidents per 100,000 students during the 201314 school year. Three states had ratios per 100,000 students that were below 500: Texas, Idaho, and Delaware. Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, Colorado, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Alabama had ratios per 100,000 students that were above 5,000.

This indicator has been updated to include new data. For more information: Tables 19.1, 19.2, 19.3, and 19.4.

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59 Referral to law enforcement is an action by which a student is reported to any law enforcement agency or official, including a school police unit, for an incident that occurs on school grounds, during school-related events, or while taking school transportation, regardless of whether official action is taken.
60 A school-related arrest is an arrest of a student for any activity conducted on school grounds, during off-campus school activities (including while taking school transportation), or due to a referral by any school official.
61 Corporal punishment is paddling, spanking, or other forms of physical punishment imposed on a student.
62 The percentage of students receiving a disciplinary action is calculated by dividing the cumulative number of students receiving that type of disciplinary action for the entire 201112 school year by the student enrollment based on a count of students taken on a single day between September 27 and December 31. The CRDC provides a count of students who received disciplinary actions; thus, a student who was suspended multiple times during a school year might be counted only once in the CRDC.
63 Excludes data for students with disabilities served only under Section 504.
64 EDFacts data represent a count of specific discipline incidents, while the CRDC provides a count of students who received disciplinary actions. Thus, a student who was suspended multiple times during a school year might be counted once in the CRDC, but multiple times in EDFacts provided each incident met the inclusion criteria.
65 EDFacts is compiled by state education agencies, while the CRDC is generally filled out by district- or school-level staff.
66 United States total includes 49 states and the District of Columbia. Data for Vermont were unavailable for 201314.