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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Serious Disciplinary Actions Taken by Public Schools

(Last Updated: July 2020)
This indicator also appears under School Crime and Safety.

During the 2017–18 school year, higher percentages of high schools (76 percent) and middle schools (58 percent) took at least one serious disciplinary action than did primary schools (17 percent).

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 reported by principals during the 2017–18 school year and discussed in this indicator are 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.

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Figure 1. Percentage of public schools that took a serious disciplinary action in response to specific offenses, by type of offense: School years 2003–04, 2015–16, and 2017–18
Figure 1. Percentage of public schools that took a serious disciplinary action in response to specific offenses, by type of offense: School years 2003–04, 2015–16, and 2017–18

1 Totals for 2003–04 are not directly comparable to totals for 2015–16 and 2017–18, because the 2015–16 and 2017–18 questionnaires did not include an item on insubordination. Schools that took serious disciplinary actions in response to more than one type of offense were counted only once in the total.

2 In 2003–04, the questionnaire wording was simply “a weapon other than a firearm” (instead of “a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device”).

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. Serious disciplinary actions include out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 or more days, but less than the remainder of the school year; removals with no continuing services for at least the remainder of the school year; and transfers to specialized schools for disciplinary reasons. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2003–04, 2015–16, and 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2004, 2016, and 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 233.10.

Figure 2. Percentage of public schools that took a serious disciplinary action in response to specific offenses, by type of offense and school level: School year 2017–18
Figure 2. Percentage of public schools that took a serious disciplinary action in response to specific offenses, by type of offense and school level: School year 2017–18

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.

1 Schools that took serious disciplinary actions in response to more than one type of offense were counted only once in the total.

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. Primary schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not higher than grade 3 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 8. Middle schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 4 and the highest grade is not higher than grade 9. High schools are defined as schools in which the lowest grade is not lower than grade 9. Excludes combined schools, which include all other combinations of grades, including K–12 schools. Serious disciplinary actions include out-of-school suspensions lasting 5 or more days, but less than the remainder of the school year; removals with no continuing services for at least the remainder of the school year; and transfers to specialized schools for disciplinary reasons. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 233.12.

Figure 3. Percentage distribution of serious disciplinary actions taken by public schools, by type of offense and type of disciplinary action: School year 2017–18
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of serious disciplinary actions taken by public schools, by type of offense and type of disciplinary action: School year 2017–18

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 233.10.


1 Totals for 2003–04 are not directly comparable to totals for 2017–18, because the 2017–18 questionnaire did not include an item on insubordination.

2 The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) programs is a proxy measure of school poverty. For more information on eligibility for FRPL and its relationship to poverty, see the NCES blog post “Free or reduced price lunch: A proxy for poverty?

Supplemental Information

Table 233.10 (Digest 2019): Number and percentage of public schools that took a serious disciplinary action in response to specific offenses, number and percentage distribution of serious actions taken, and number of students involved in specific offenses, by type of offense and type of action: Selected years, 1999-2000 through 2017–18;
Table 233.12 (Digest 2019): Percentage of public schools that took a serious disciplinary action in response to specific offenses, by type of offense and selected school characteristics: 2017-18
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Previous versions of this indicator available in the Indicators of School Crime and Safety reports
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