School Discipline in Arkansas: Reforms Needed to Improve Outcomes

We all want Arkansas schools to be safe, healthy, and orderly environments so every student can learn and thrive. Kids need clear expectations for behavior and logical consequences to grow academically and learn from their mistakes.

However, many outdated school discipline policies and practices in Arkansas can create more problems than they solve. Harsh, arbitrary, or “zero tolerance” policies, such as sending a child home from school for not wearing the correct uniform, are can create an environment counterproductive to learning. The more often students are sent out of the classroom, the further they fall behind.

Research shows that in- or out-of-school suspensions and corporal punishment (spanking) are not only ineffective at improving student behavior and school culture but also have negative long-term effects on mental health, graduation rates, overall academic success, and preparation for the workforce. While school discipline practices in Arkansas and across the country disproportionally impact Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC) students; students with disabilities are also more likely to experience corporal punishment or restraining practices than their peers without disabilities.

This brief serves as an update on why school discipline reform still matters, where we stand in Arkansas, and what we can do to improve outcomes for our students.