But some places are a lot worse than others.
Which States Have the Most Punitive School Discipline?
It’s hard enough being a kid these days, but when it comes to punitive school discipline, some states make it way harder. Based on the 2017-18 data from the U.S. Department of Education, the states in the brightest color red in the map below are those with the highest combined rates of school suspensions, expulsions, use of restraint and seclusion, paddling, arrests at school, and referral to the police. The lightest states are those that are least punitive. Our methodology: we gave the heaviest weighting to hands-on procedures (restraint, seclusion, paddling), arrests at school, referrals to police, and expulsion; we gave a slightly lower weighting to out-of-school suspension, and the lowest weighting to in-school-suspension. We calculated a “Punitive Index” for each state based on the weighted total of punitive interventions relative to the estimated population of children under the age of 18 in the state.
Mississippi continues to have the ignominious distinction of being far and away the most punitive state in the US, followed by South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alabama. (Scroll over each state to see raw numbers per year for each of the above interventions.) And there is an association between treating kids badly and rates of incarceration of adults. Click here to see incarceration rates by state.
Kudos to Utah for being (again) the least punitive state, followed by California, and North Dakota. But every state has work to do. Punitive interventions are used in schools in every state, and none of these interventions solve the problems that are causing concerning behavior in our students.
By the way, there is good reason to believe that the data reported by the U.S. Department of Education represent underestimates. So the problem is much worse than is being reported.
Here are resources providing information about policies related to restraint and seclusion, exclusionary disciplinary practices, and corporal punishment for each state. And here is another resource providing information about the degree to which each state prioritizes social, emotional, and academic development (the discipline tab is of particular interest).
“If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”- Ignacio Estrada