Contrary to popular belief, tossing ‘bad’ kids harms ‘good’ ones, too

“The more suspensions occurred in a given semester, the lower all students’ math scores,” said Perry in an interview. “What surprised us was that nobody had taken a look at this already.”

The effect was particularly marked in low-violence/high-punishment schools, and Perry hypothesizes that in such environments students become both constantly anxious and increasingly distrustful of educators who appear to level discipline unfairly.

In other words, she writes, punishment enacted too zealously undermines the legitimacy of school rules and those who enforce them, “creating a psychological wedge” between students and their teachers.

“It creates a problem with bonds,” she said. “So kids don’t buy into school.”


The number of suspensions and expulsions is a reflection of school culture and the mindsets and dispositions of the school staff.

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