First Oregon Cross-District Study Highlights Discipline Disparities


May 6, 2014



An analysis of six Oregon school districts’ data from the 2011/12 school year, conducted by REL Northwest, shows that minority students are more likely to be suspended or expelled than their White peers. Suspension and Expulsion Patterns in Six Oregon School Districts—the first-ever Oregon study to look at discipline information across districts (including Beaverton, Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Portland, Reynolds, and Tigard-Tualatin)—also reveals that male students are more likely to face exclusionary discipline than females, and that special education students are disciplined more frequently than students not in special education.

The findings mirror those in a March 2014 report by the Office of Civil Rights, showing disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color and for other student subgroups. The REL Northwest study found:

  • 6.4 percent of students were suspended or expelled during 2011/12 across the six districts
  • Suspension and expulsion rates varied by student grade level, gender, race/ethnicity, and special education status
  • Rates for male students were 2.5 times higher than for females
  • Rates for American Indian, Black, Hispanic, and multiracial students were 1.2–3.1 times those of their White classmates
  • Rates for special education students were 2.6 times those of students not in special education
  • Physical and verbal aggression was the most common reason for suspension or expulsion among elementary and middle school students, while insubordination/disruption was the main cause in high schools

Members of the Oregon Leadership Network Behavioral Practices Task Force requested the study by REL Northwest. “The districts’ request was aimed at understanding the issue of discipline disparity as it plays out in their schools, establishing some baselines, and then using the information to guide ongoing changes in policy and practice,” according to Vicki Nishioka, who co-authored the study with Arthur Burke.

In a recent Education Week commentary, Beaverton Superintendent Jeff Rose explained the importance of having evidence on which to base decisions about disciplinary policies. “While we have a long way to go to achieve equity, I now have confidence that principals in my district are increasingly asking the right questions,” he said. “They are also receiving high-quality data to provide accurate answers about what to do, and how well their actions are affecting results. The support of REL Northwest has been a critical factor in leveraging our progress.”

The Oregon Leadership Network, the only statewide educational leadership network in the nation dedicated to improving equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students, includes 16 school districts that represent more than a third of the state’s students. OLN members collaborate with REL Northwest, one of 10 regional education laboratories funded by the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, in a research partnership that conducts studies and other activities aimed at eliminating gaps in graduation rates and disciplinary actions for different groups of students. REL Northwest is operated by Education Northwest, which works to transform teaching and learning throughout the region and beyond.