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Colorado Disciplinary Practices, 2008-2010: Disciplinary Actions, Student Behaviors, Race, and Gender

The Colorado legislature has recently taken school discipline policies under review, pursuant to SB 11-133. To inform the discussion in Colorado as well as a national discussion about discipline, this report presents an analysis of the most complete set of Colorado discipline data. It adds to and reinforces existing studies, documenting some troubling patterns, and suggests important changes in policy and in future data gathering.

Two key policy issues can be identified in this data. The first is whether racial disproportionality reflects a disproportionate number of students of color engaging in certain types of behaviors, or whether it reflects students of color being punished for behaviors that White students engage in without such serious consequences. The second issue involves out-of-school suspensions and the negative consequences, such as the higher dropout rates, correlated with this type of disciplinary action. The report offers a series of recommendations to remedy and reduce the frequent use of out-of-school suspensions, and in particular the frequent use of this type of disciplinary action for students of color.