Indiana schools worse than average for ‘discipline gap’

Indiana schools are among the nation’s leaders in an unfortunate category: the rate at which they suspend and expel students of color. That’s according to the Civil Rights Data Collection report issued last month by the Department of Education.

The report includes extensive data for 2011-12 from nearly all U.S. public schools and highlights equity issues ranging from availability of preschool to distribution of experienced teachers to access to challenging high school courses.

Some of the starkest disparities were in school discipline. Black students faced out-of-school suspension and expulsion at three times the rate for white students. And in Indiana, the numbers were higher:

  • 27 percent of African-American boys were suspended or expelled: the second-highest rate in the nation, tied with Missouri. The national rate was 20 percent.
  • 17 percent of multiracial boys were suspended or expelled. That’s second in the nation, tied with North Carolina and behind Florida. The national rate was 11 percent.
  • 16 percent of African-American girls were suspended or expelled, tied for second with Michigan and Missouri and behind Wisconsin. National rate: 12 percent.
  • 8 percent of multiracial girls were suspended or expelled, tied for second with several states and behind only Rhode Island. The national rate was 5 percent.


Indiana also had some of the largest racial gaps in suspension rates. Eight percent of white male students and 3 percent of white female students were suspended, as were 5 percent of Asian males and 1 percent of Asian females.

Some folks are sure to suggest poverty, class or culture, and not race, account for the disparities in discipline. But researchers with the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Consortium, including Indiana University professor Russell Skiba, have shown it’s not that simple. There’s evidence that African-American youth are more likely to face harsh penalties for offenses that might draw a slap on the wrist for others.

At any rate, discipline is an educational issue, not just a civil rights issue. When kids are suspended or expelled, they aren’t learning, and they’re arguably apt to become discouraged and alienated. As Skiba, Anne Gregory and Pedro Noguera argued in a 2010 paper, the discipline gap and the achievement gap may be “two sides of the same coin.”


10 thoughts on “Indiana schools worse than average for ‘discipline gap’

  1. I find this report pathetically short sighted, but normal for American ignorance and fear. Truth be told when one looks at our current education system its failing socially and ethically. When looking at the way school systems are arranged to the economic territories it isnt hard to see where the problems lie. Honestly its a sad thing to see when we spout honesty and truth yet we cannot even follow these principles ourselves. Not only does race play a part in the numbers but also poverty. We try to pretend these things dont play a part in decisions and behaviors, but its all a lie. No matter how our representatives.try to spin it the truth cannot be hidden.

  2. Hi Steve, I followed the Amos Brown link and was interested to see the discipline gap. I think it’s important to look at the overall numbers as well as the ratio of minority to white students suspended and expelled (a number of charters appeared to do better there). I was looking at the numbers in the Ball State accountability report, too. A number of the charters appeared to have very high overall numbers of suspensions. Aspire Charter Academy, for instance, with an enrollment of 667, had 221 out of school suspensions in 2011-2012 (see page 8 of

    I couldn’t find the suspension data on the DOE Compass. Do you know where it can be found for public schools?

  3. Pingback: Legislation seeks to roll back ‘zero tolerance’ | School Matters

  4. Pingback: Bill aims to reduce suspensions | School Matters

  5. Pingback: How this Indiana district is rethinking discipline to keep kids in school

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