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Analysis Finds Changes in Colorado School Discipline Rates After New State Law

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Changes in Colorado's school discipline laws have helped draw down rates of suspension, expulsion, and law enforcement referrals, but work remains to be done, advocacy groups said in an analysis of  discipline data Friday.

Advancement Project and Padres and Jovenes Unidos analyzed data from all 179 school districts in Colorado to track the impact of a state law passed in 2012 that limited the use of zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools and emphasized restorative practices.

"The passage of the Smart School Discipline Law was a critical step in addressing Colorado's 'school-to-prison pipeline,'" the analysis says. "Indeed, our analysis of school discipline data for 2012-13, the first full year of the law's implementation, indicates a number of promising developments. In particular, many districts are issuing far fewer out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement, leading to reductions statewide, and in some cases, significant reductions. Importantly, these improvements are, in most cases, benefitting all racial subgroups."

Among other findings: 55 districts issued fewer than 2 suspensions for every 100 students in 2012-13, 88 districts had no expulsions, and 88 districts had no referrals to law enforcement.

But despite that "undeniably encouraging progress," there are still problem areas, the analysis says, including districts where the law hasn't had as significant of an effect, persistent disparities in discipline rates for some racial groups in many areas, and "huge variability in the practices used statewide." This graphic, included in the report, summarized some of the changes.coloradoreport.JPGOther states have also taken measures to rework their school discipline laws in recent years. As districts comply with those laws by adjusting their policies, it will be interesting to see the effects.

You can read the whole Colorado report here.

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