School Climate and Juvenile Justice

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) began working on school discipline issues in 2007 as part of an initiative to uncover and improve high school drop-out rates in Alabama. Working in partnership with state leadership and community advocates, SEF discovered that many of the local districts and schools with high numbers of dropouts also showed abnormally high rates of out-of-school-suspensions for their students. The at-risk populations, including low-income students and students of color who comprise a majority of the drop-out population, were also missing a high number of school days each year due to disciplinary infractions and suspensions.  We also knew that these students increasingly represented a new diverse majority in the region’s public schools.  Improving Southern student achievement would not be possible without addressing the developmental and supportive needs of these student groups. Seeking to better understand the link between school discipline and student achievement across the entire region of the South, SEF launched our School Climate and Juvenile Justice Initiative.

Our Strategy:

  • Educating the public on how school discipline is a barrier to student achievement, school climate, and parental and community engagement;

  • Convening and supporting cross-sector coalitions and campaigns in Deep South states like Georgia and North Carolina to explore ways in which to develop new strategies to improve discipline policies and practices;

  • Providing data and a set of tools stakeholders can use to engage and inform community partners on discipline trends locally; 

  • Encouraging state leadership to develop systems for annually monitoring and reporting discipline data to the public; and

  • Exploring ways to address school discipline practices as part of teacher preparation programs with teachers and higher education institutions.

Resources and Tools:

Disproportionate Impact of K-12 School Suspension and Expulsion on Black Students in Southern States. Graduate School of Education at Penn. (2015).
Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform the Juvenile Justice System Into Effective Educational Systems. Southern Education Foundation. (2014).
Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform the Juvenile Justice System Into Effective Educational Systems Animated Video. Southern Education Foundation. (2014).
Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track. Advancement Project.
The School Discipline Consensus Report. Council of State Governments Justice Center. (June 2014).
Web Tool: Suspension Data by State or School District. UCLA Civil Rights Project. (September 2013).
Nation-wide Survey of State Education Agencies' Online School Disciplinary Data for Students with Disabilities. UCLA Civil Rights Project. (Summer 2014).
Keeping Kids in Class Toolkit. Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. (2014).

Just Learning Animated Video!

Check out this short animated video explaining the findings of the Just Learning report.


SEF Applauds new Guidance

SEF released late 2014 a statement in support of the new federal guidance to improve education for incarcerated youth. Download the statement.



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