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How can we promote equitable discipline in schools?





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Final Report

The final report from this study discusses findings from phase one (quantitative) and phase two (qualitative), and concludes with recommendations for research, policy, and practice to help ameliorate the issue of racial disproportionality in school discipline. 

Literature Briefs


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In addition to the final report, there are two literature briefs that provide background information about the issue of racial disproportionality in school discipline. "Why Do Racial Disparities in School Discipline Exist?" offers an overview of some of the policies, practices, people and places that contribute to racial disproportionality in school disciplinary outcomes. "A Review of Disciplinary Interventions in K12 Public Education" offers an overview of school discipline interventions in K12 public education, with a particular focus on the following alternative approaches: Trauma Informed Care, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and Restorative Practices.


Study Background 

 This mixed-method study sought to understand the factors that lead to disproportionate school discipline outcomes. The project was commissioned by the Policy and Planning Council in September of 2015. The study team was identified and began its work in the fall of 2016. The research questions and research plan were approved by the Policy and Planning Council in May of 2016. It is expected that the final report for the study will be published in the spring of 2019. 

There were two phases to this study. In the first phase we used maps to compare regional data on school discipline outcomes with community data and the results of a survey of building leaders about the design and implementation of discipline programs. In this phase, we were interested in understanding the relationship between discipline models (e.g., PBIS, restorative practices, trauma-informed care) and discipline rates across racial ethnic groups, and students with special education classifications. In the second phase of the study, we used the results from phase one to identify secondary school sites for a multiple case study. This included three schools across urban, rural, and suburban contexts in the Richmond region. Through observation, interviews, and focus groups, the research team learned about how educators and students navigate school discipline and perceive the issue of racial disproportionality. 

It is expected that the findings from this study will be used within the school systems for a variety of purposes. This includes informing professional development programs related to discipline practices as well as the possible development and evaluation of programs designed to address inequities in the system.


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Podcast Episodes

 Understanding Racial Inequity in School Discipline in the Richmond Region (2019)

Marcie Terry (Chesterfield), Brian Maltby (Hanover), David Naff (MERC/VCU SOE), and Ashlee Lester (VCU SOE) discuss the findings and recommendations in the final report. 

Click here to listen to the final report episode in chapters.


Ram Bhagat: The Reconciliation Project (2017)

An interview with Ram Bhagat, a long-time educator, community advocate, and proponent of culturally responsive restorative practices in schools. 


 Achieving Racial Equity in School Disciplinary Policies and Practices (2016)

In this introductory episode to this study with William Noel Sr. (Henrico), Adai Tefera (VCU SOE), Rachel Levy (VCU SOE), Evandra Catherine (VCU SOE), Jesse Senechal (MERC/VCU SOE), and David Naff (MERC/VCU SOE), we discussed the background and plans for the project.


Research Team

Adai Tefera – Co-Principal Investigator, VCU

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley – Co-Principal Investigator, VCU

Jesse Senechal – Co-Principal Investigator, MERC, VCU

David Naff - Co-Principal Investigator, MERC, VCU

Ashlee Lester – Graduate Research Assistant, VCU

Rachel Levy – Graduate Research Assistant, VCU

Zoey Lu – Graduate Research Assistant, VCU


Study Team

Marcie Terry - Assistant Principal
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Tameshia Grimes – Director of Equity and Student Support Services
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Chad Knowles – Coordinator of Constituent Services and Student Leadership
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Amanda Pelter – Teacher
Colonial Heights Public Schools

Christin East – Division Coordinator of Student Programming 
Goochland County Public Schools

Brian Maltby - Disciplinary Hearing Review Officer
Hanover County Public Schools

Robert Staley – Director of Secondary Education
Hanover County Public Schools

Diane Joyner – Educational Specialist
Henrico County Public Schools

William Noel Sr. – Director of Student Support and Disciplinary Review
Henrico County Public Schools

Kris Gwaltney – Discipline Officer & Director of Transportation
Powhatan County Public Schools

Robin Dalton – Hearing Officer
Richmond City Public Schools

Harry Morgan III – Manger Pupil Placement
Richmond City Public Schools 



Smith, E. J. & Harper, S. R. (2015). Disproportionate impact of K-12 school suspension and expulsion on Black students in southern states. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.



Virginia Commonwealth University
School of Education

MERC, Oliver Hall, 4th Floor
1015 W. Main St, Box 842020
Richmond, VA 23284-2020

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