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Racial Disproportionality in School Discipline

An APA Division 15 Policy Brief

In this policy brief, Theresa Pfister argues that racial disproportionality in school discipline in the U.S. has contributed to gaps in outcomes—including lower academic achievement, risk of drop-out, and involvement in the juvenile justice system. This discipline gap prevents the public school system from delivering on its promise to provide an equal education to all students. While causes of the discipline gap are complex, researchers have found implicit bias, differential selection and processing, and negative racial stereotypes to be greatly to blame. The author provides recommendations for policy and practice, including providing professional development for all educators in race, bias, and equity, prioritizing empathetic relationships with all students, and exploring alternative discipline practices such as restorative justice or multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS).