50-State Comparison: State Policies on School Discipline
Recent data show significant disparities in the application of suspension and expulsion based on race, gender and disability status. The emergence of these data, coupled with research showing the long-term negative impact of removing students from the learning environment, has prompted many state education leaders to re-examine their school discipline requirements. This has led to legislation aimed at striking an appropriate balance between promoting safe and productive schools while reducing the adverse effects of exclusionary discipline.
This resource provides much-needed context for these conversations on school discipline by outlining current state statute in an easily accessible format. Education Commission of the States researched school discipline statutes in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, and synthesized its findings according to several key questions below. It is important to note that this comparison covers state statutes and regulations only. In many states, school discipline policies are created and applied at the district or school level, and those nuances are not captured in this scan of state-level policies.
Click on the questions below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach specific school discipline policies. Or, choose to view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.
Most states place some limitation on the use of suspension or expulsion, usually by outlining the allowable length of suspension or expulsion.
- Approximately 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, limit the use of suspension or expulsion by grade level, usually by disallowing the use of exclusionary discipline in the early grades.
- Several states limit the use of exclusionary discipline for certain violations. Of those, about 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, prohibit suspension or expulsion solely for a student’s attendance or truancy issues.
About 30 states, plus the District of Columbia, encourage districts and schools to utilize non-punitive, or more supportive, school discipline strategies. Of those, 22 states, plus the District of Columbia, mention the use of specific, evidence-based interventions — such as schoolwide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), restorative practices, Response to Intervention (RTI), trauma-informed practices and social-emotional learning.
Approximately 33 states, plus the District of Columbia, explicitly require some level of reporting on school discipline; and some of those states require suspension and expulsion data to be disaggregated by race, gender and/or disability status.
Twenty-seven states, plus the District of Columbia, explicitly prohibit the use of corporal punishment in statute or regulation. Nineteen states allow for the use of corporal punishment or physical force for disciplinary purposes, usually deferring the decision to the local level. Four states do not specifically address the use of corporal punishment in law.
- What may a student be suspended or expelled for?
- What must a student be suspended or expelled for?
- Are there limitations placed on suspension or expulsion?
- Are there non-punitive approaches outlined as alternatives to suspension or expulsion?
- Are there alternative schooling options available for students who are suspended or expelled?
- When is a school required to involve law enforcement in student discipline?
- Is corporal punishment permitted?
- Does the state outline reporting requirements for suspension and expulsion?