Over-Disciplining Students, Racial Bias, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Jason P. Nance *

Over the last three decades, our nation has witnessed a dramatic change regarding how schools discipline children for disruptive behavior. Empirical evidence during this time period demonstrates that schools increasingly have relied on extreme forms of punishment such as suspensions, expulsions, referrals to law enforcement, and school-based arrests to discipline students for violations of school rules. For example, from the 1972–73 school year to the 2009–10 school year, the number of students expelled or suspended from secondary schools increased from one in thirteen to one in nine. Between 1974 and 2012, the number of out-of-school suspensions increased nationally from 1.7 million to 3.45 million. There is also substantial evidence that referrals to law enforcement and school-based arrests have significantly in-creased in recent years. 

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* Associate Professor of Law, Associate Director of Education Law and Policy, University of Florida Levin College of Law. I thank the participants of the University of Richmond Law Review’s Allen Chair Symposium on School Inequality for their helpful comments on this topic. I also thank Samanta Franchim, Anthony Kakoyannis, and Laura Liles for their outstanding research assistance. Finally, I thank the University of Richmond Law Review for organizing this symposium and for their editorial help.