Achieving Racial Equity in Disciplinary Policies and Practices

Check out our latest research brief:

Why do racial disparities in school discipline exist? The role of policies, processes, people, and places.


Want to learn more about this topic? Register today for our 14th Annual MERC Conference where we will have a session committed to this study!


Nationally, over half of the 1.2 million Black students suspended from K-12 public schools in a single academic year were in districts in 13 southern states, including districts in Virginia (Smith & Harper, 2015). For many students of color, persistent trends in racial disproportionality in suspension rates have resulted in limited educational opportunities.  However, in order to improve these issues with disciplinary disproportionality,  a number of interventions have been implemented both nationally and locally, including Response to Intervention (RtI), Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), and Restorative Justice.

The Equity in Disciplinary Practices study is designed to explore the disciplinary practices within the Richmond metropolitan area.  The goal of this mixed methods study is to examine the relationship between school and district demographics and discipline disparities among students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and with differing educational and emotional needs.

The goals of the present study are to:

  • Understand the landscape and impact of disciplinary interventions in the Richmond metropolitan area
  • Offer recommendations for best practices for different types of schools

This mixed methods study will be completed in two phases.  Phase 1 will be quantitative in nature.  This phase will include surveying school administrators about the their school’s discipline practices.  Spatial (i.e., maps) and quantitative exploration of the relationship between school demographics and discipline disparities will also be conducted during phase 1.  Phase 2 of the study will be qualitative in nature and consist of interviews and focus groups conducted at 3 schools.  These 3 schools will be selected by the study team based on the information gathered from phase 1 and their implementation of discipline programs.

To hear more about the study from members of the study team check out Episode One and Episode Three of Abstract!

Research Team
Adai Tefera – Co-Principal Investigator, VCU
Genevieve Siegel-Hawley – Co-Principal Investigator, VCU
Jesse Senechal – Co-Principal Investigator, MERC, VCU
Ashlee Lester – Graduate Research Assistant, MERC, VCU
Rachel Levy – Graduate Research Assistant, VCU
Jorli Swingen – Graduate Research Assistant, VCU

Study Team
Robin Dalton – Hearing Officer, Richmond City Public Schools
Christin East – Student Support Administrator, Goochland County Public Schools
Tameshia Grimes – Assistant Director of Student Support Services, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Kris Gwaltney – Discipline Officer & Director of Transportation, Powhatan County Public Schools
Diane Joyner – Educational Specialist Research, Henrico County Public Schools
Chad Knowles – Assistant Principal, Chesterfield County Public Schools
Harry Morgan III – Manger Pupil Placement, Richmond City Public Schools
William Noel Sr.– Director of Student Support and Disciplinary Review, Henrico County Public Schools
Amanda Pelter– Teacher, Colonial Heights Public Schools
Karen Scott – Assistant Principal, Goochland County Public Schools
Sherol Southerland – Director of School Safety and Disciplinary Hearing Review Officer, Hanover County Public Schools
Robert Stately – Director of Secondary Education, Hanover County 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.

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