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Racial Disparities Found in Exclusionary School Discipline Impact on Student Achievement, Study Reveals

Black and Latine Students Experience Greater Negative Effects on GPA from Exclusionary School Discipline

In a groundbreaking cohort study conducted in a large urban school district in California, researchers have unveiled concerning racial and ethnic disparities in the impact of exclusionary school discipline (ESD) on academic performance. The study, titled “Exclusionary School Discipline and School Achievement for Middle and High School Students, by Race and Ethnicity,” evaluated 16,849 middle and high school students over a 3-year period.

Key Findings:

  1. GPA Decrease: Students who experienced an ESD event in the first year saw an average GPA decrease of 0.88 points.
  2. Racial Disparities: Black and Latine students experienced significantly more ESD events, leading to over half a grade point decrease in GPA compared to their White counterparts.
  3. Adverse Childhood Experience: The study suggests that ESD may be considered an adverse childhood experience, with potentially long-lasting effects on health and academic trajectories.

Implications and Recommendations:

  1. Pediatric Screening: The findings indicate a need for pediatricians and healthcare professionals to screen for exclusionary experiences, as these events may have lasting effects on a child’s health and well-being.
  2. Reconsideration of ESD: The study recommends categorizing ESD events as adverse childhood experiences and calls for a reevaluation of the practice as a disciplinary measure in schools.
  3. Policy Changes: The research urges policymakers to prioritize replacing ESD practices with in-school behavioral and mental health supports, advocating for alternatives such as restorative justice practices.
  4. Long-Term Impact: While the study provides a snapshot of the association between ESD and GPA over three years, it emphasizes the need for further longitudinal studies to understand the long-term impacts of ESD on educational attainment.


Exclusionary school discipline practices, including suspensions and expulsions, are prevalent in U.S. schools. Despite a decrease in school violence, studies have shown that ESD does not prevent subsequent behavioral disruptions and can lead to negative outcomes, including poor mental and physical well-being, increased juvenile justice involvement, and academic disengagement.


This study sheds light on the significant impact of exclusionary school discipline on students, particularly those from minoritized communities, and underscores the importance of addressing racial disparities in education for the well-being and success of all students.

Credit: JAMA Network Open