• By Alisha “Tuff” Tuff • IDRA Newsletter • February 2023 • Alisha Tuff

Across the country, student learning often is interrupted by harmful disciplinary policies and practices. Discipline strategies like suspensions, alternative school placements, corporal punishment and law enforcement involvement, especially ostracize students who are Black and/or Latino and students with disabilities, who are overrepresented in punishments.

Exclusionary discipline causes students to experience trauma. These practices have hurt students’ academic performance and led to students being pushed out of school (Rios, 2011, 2017; Morris,2016).

In Texas, students of color, particularly Black students, are overrepresented in all types of school discipline. Often, when penalized, they are placed outside the classroom and receive severe punishment. These students are no more than their peers to misbehave (Okonofua & Eberhardt, 2015; Skiba & Williams, 2014).

For example, in 2021-22, Black students received 32% of all out-of-school suspensions, 25% of in-school suspensions, and 23% of alternative school placements, though they only made up 12.8% of the Texas student population (TEA, 2022).

Students with disabilities represent 12% of the population and account for 22% of out-of-school suspensions and 20% of in-school suspensions (TEA, 2022).

There is a plethora of research on strategies that work for school discipline (Lyons, Duggins-Clay & Craven, 2022). Still, schools often use reactionary approaches that push students out of learning time and out of school altogether.

Instead, schools should take proactive steps to prevent disciplinary referrals. We must keep students in the classroom to create a better future for society.

IDRA recommends the Texas Legislature take up effective, evidence-based policy approaches to make schools safer and reduce disproportionate discipline, including elimination of exclusionary discipline policies, adopting restorative practices and building inclusive schools.

Eliminate Exclusionary Discipline

No-excuse and zero-tolerance policies have no place in schools. These policies lead to over-disciplining and high surveilling of students (Lyons, 2023). Schools should invest in effective alternatives, including asset-based approaches and culturally-sustaining classrooms (Craven, 2023).

Adopt Restorative Practice

Restorative practices are about relationships and community. The goal is to rectify harm that was done by establishing collective standards and respect. When the rules or the relationships are broken, there needs to be an immediate pause to understand what has happened, the harm that was done, and what steps can be taken to repair the harm so that the group can move forward. (Johnson, 2019; Johnson & Bojorquez, 2022)

Build Inclusive Schools

Students thrive when they feel seen, heard and valued. Schools should embrace the assets that students have and use those assets to build the curriculum. Research shows that culturally–sustaining classrooms that consider students’ cultures and lived experiences improve all student performance (Ladson Billings, 2002; 2009).

IDRA helps schools review their policies and practices and helps school leaders build safe, supportive school climates where all students can learn and succeed, including historically marginalized Black and Latino students. See IDRA’s School Discipline – Online Technical Assistance Toolkit (https://idra.news/DisciplineToolkit) for research and strategies.


Craven, M. (January 13, 2023). Schools Should Prioritize Prevention, Education and Support Over Exclusionary Discipline in Cases of Identity-Based Bullying and Harassment. IDRA.

Johnson, P.N. (March 2019). Restorative Practices – Informal and Formal Processes for Addressing Behavior. IDRA Newsletter.

Johnson, P.N., & Bojorquez, H. (April 2022). Four Leverage Points for Culturally Sustaining Practices. IDRA Newsletter.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2002). I Ain’t Writin’ Nuttin’: Permission to Fail and Demands to Succeed in Urban Classrooms. In L. Delpit & D. Kilgour (Eds.), The Skin That We Speak (pp. 107-120). The New York Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Lyons, M. (February 24, 2023). 33 Years Later, Tough on Crime Still Bad for Students. Knowledge is Power. IDRA.

Lyons, M., Duggins-Clay, P., & Craven, M. (June-July 2022). A Policy Roadmap – School Safety for All Students. IDRA Newsletter.

Morris, M.W. (2016). Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. New Press.

Okonofua, J., & Eberhardt, J.L. (2015). Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students. Psychological Science, 26(5), 617-624.

Rios, V.M. (2011). Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. New York University Press.

Rios, V.M. (2017). Human Targets: Schools, Police, and the Criminalization of Latino Youth. University of Chicago Press

Skiba, R.J., & Williams, N.T. (2014). Are Black kids worse? Myths and Facts about Racial Differences in Behavior: Equity Project at Indiana University.

TEA. (2022). State level annual discipline summary PEMIS data for 2021-2022. Texas Education Agency.

Note: The articles in this issue of the IDRA Newsletter feature the research and policy advocacy of IDRA’s education policy fellows. The IDRA Education Policy Fellows program is a nine-month fellowship designed to provide real-world training to advocates who represent the communities most impacted by state-level education policymaking. Get more information about the program, including how to support the fellows’ work.

Alisha “Tuff” Tuff is an IDRA education policy fellow. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at alisha.tuff@idra.org.

[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2023 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]