Data on school disciplinary actions

Who collects data on school disciplinary actions and for what purpose?

All public elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. collect data on disciplinary actions and report the data to the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) program.27 The ED initiated the CRDC program in 1968 to collect data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public primary and secondary schools. The CRDC collects a variety of information including school disciplinary actions administered to students, most of which is disaggregated by student race, ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency, and disability status. In 2020, the ED Office of Civil Rights (OCR) received approval from the Office of Management and Budget to require all LEAs in the country—including every public school district, charter schools, juvenile justice facilities, alternative schools, and schools serving only students with disabilities—to respond to the CRDC for the 2020-21 school year. 

The CRDC is a longstanding and important aspect of the ED OCR’s overall strategy for administering and enforcing the civil rights statutes that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from ED (e.g., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act). OCR uses the data to identify nationwide trends in civil rights compliance and detect emerging issues of concern. Once the data are reviewed and analyzed, they are provided to the public as aggregated and de-identified data in three main formats: published reports, the OCR reporting website, and a data file. Other ED offices as well as policymakers and researchers outside of ED who work on issues related to civil rights use information the CRDC collects.28

Schools that implement the PBIS framework also collect data on disciplinary actions. Such data are commonly used to assess the overall number of discipline incidents in schools that implement the framework with fidelity. The Center on PBIS has developed technical guidance for the use of classroom data to support implementation of positive classroom behavior support practices and systems.29

Appendix B includes workflows that illustrate how school disciplinary action data flow based on whether the local education agency (LEA) has state or vendor support to write standard routines for Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) data and access to a statewide longitudinal data system (SLDS).

Schools and school districts collect and report school disciplinary action data to monitor discipline incidents and collect data on key education and civil rights issues in schools. However, health departments can also use population-level data to identify schools, school districts, or subpopulations that are experiencing high rates of disciplinary actions and assess changes in the trend over time. School disciplinary action data not only influence future mental health, but could also serve as a population-level indicator of current mental health among children and adolescents—both especially useful to public health.

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Have you used school disciplinary action data within your health department? If so, we would love to hear from you and feature your story in this playbook.