Special Report
School Climate & Safety Opinion

A Successful Discipline Policy Thrives on Consistency

By Earl Perkins — January 04, 2013 2 min read

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, more students are now staying in school instead of losing class time because of suspensions. Thanks to the district’s successful approach to discipline, the number of days lost to suspension in 2010-11 plummeted to 26,286, from 46,006—an impressive 43 percent drop in one year. Among the lessons learned: Schoolchildren who engage in a positive manner in school are less likely to get into trouble.

To provide some context: Los Angeles Unified ranks as the nation’s second-largest school district, enrolling more than 664,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. About 80 percent of them qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. A large majority, 73 percent, identify as Latino. Ten percent of our students are African-American, 9 percent are white, and 8 percent identify as other ethnicities. The statistics indicate that today only a small fraction of our students get suspended, and the numbers are shrinking.

In a large urban school district, such as this one in which suspensions had once been rising, how did we accomplish this? The Los Angeles district’s “discipline foundation policy,” adopted five years ago, provides an overarching framework to maintain and encourage appropriate conduct on every campus. The policy establishes roles for administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and parents or guardians.

As a result, all schoolwide discipline plans for teachers include instruction on school rules, social-emotional skills, and effective classroom-management skills. We encourage positive student behavior by providing early intervention strategies that require appropriate consequences for misconduct and offer behavior-support strategies for the future.

We use a scaled approach to address student needs: Tier I interventions may include establishing expectations for schoolwide behavior that are consistently reinforced. For students who need more guidance, Tier II interventions may range from referral to a counselor to a “mini-course” that addresses the targeted behavior. For cases requiring greater support, Tier III interventions may require alternative programming or suspensions for students.

Essential to the policy’s success is the uniform training of all staff members in student discipline, including identifying disciplinary measures that violate the state education code. The district’s office of school operations holds mandatory training sessions for all staff members who are involved in student discipline. Having a common understanding improves our efforts and leads to consistent enforcement of policies. Identifying behavioral trends also helps maintain discipline and a positive school climate.

Suspension data are analyzed monthly by Superintendent John E. Deasy, his administrative team, and school officials. These regular reviews chart the effectiveness of schoolwide discipline plans and, if necessary, modify strategies to address specific needs of students on particular campuses. When discipline stubbornly remains a major issue at a specific school, greater support is provided.

See Also

What is the most effective approach for maintaining discipline and a positive climate in the public schools?

Education Week Commentary asked six thought leaders to share their answer to this question in Quality Counts 2013. Read the other responses.

Today, more students are in the classroom; discipline is maintained across campuses, and school climates are more positive.

The district’s efforts are working. The numbers, like the impressive 43 percent drop in the suspension rate in a single school year and the fact that the rate has held steady, tell a story worth repeating. Punishment alone won’t improve behavior, nor will it keep students in school so they can benefit from instruction.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Former NRA President Promotes Gun Rights at Fake Graduation Set Up by Parkland Parents
A former NRA president invited to give a commencement address to a school that doesn’t exist was set up to make a point about gun violence.
Lisa J. Huriash, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
2 min read
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaks during the CPAC meeting in Washington on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2010.
David Keene, the former president of the NRA, promoted gun rights in a speech he thought was a rehearsal for a commencement address to graduating students in Las Vegas. The invitation to give the speech was a set up by Parkland parents whose son was killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP
School Climate & Safety Opinion The Police-Free Schools Movement Made Headway. Has It Lost Momentum?
Removing officers from school hallways plays just one small part in taking down the school policing system.
Judith Browne Dianis
4 min read
Image of lights on police cruiser
School Climate & Safety Spotlight Spotlight on Safe Reopening
In this Spotlight, review how your district can strategically apply its funding, and how to help students safely bounce back, plus more.

School Climate & Safety Video A Year of Activism: Students Reflect on Their Fight for Racial Justice at School
Education Week talks to three students about their year of racial justice activism, what they learned, and where they are headed next.
4 min read
Tay Andwerson, front center, Denver School Board at-large director, leads demonstrators through Civic Center Park on a march to City Park to call for more oversight of the police Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Denver.
Tay Andwerson, front center, Denver School Board at-large director, leads demonstrators through Civic Center Park on a march to City Park to call for more oversight of the police Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Denver.
David Zalubowski/AP