Magazine Feature

Toolkit for "Flagler County: A Case for Suspension Abolition"

The right to education should never be suspended. This toolkit for "Flagler County: A Case for Suspension Abolition," an A-to-Z list, will help you ensure your students are not deprived of learning opportunities.


In the 1970s, Flagler County, Florida, was one of the last school districts in the United States to desegregate and has had a track record of high numbers of school suspensions ever since. Now, Flagler County is moving in a positive direction as it becomes one of the first districts in the nation to experiment with the concept of suspension abolition.

In the 2011-12 school year, U.S. students lost about 18 million days of instruction to out-of-school suspensions. Aside from disrupting the educational process, out-of-school suspensions increase the likelihood of students dropping out of school, entering the criminal justice system and experiencing future behavioral problems.

Work with your school to eliminate this ineffective practice and replace it with alternatives that address and redirect student misbehavior.


Essential Questions

  1. What does abolishing suspension require?
  2. What steps can my school take to move toward suspension abolition? 



  1. Identify and use alternatives to suspension, expulsion and arrests that have been proven effective in addressing student misconduct.
  2. Ban the use of out-of-school suspension, starting with establishing more responsive disciplinary measures for minor and nonviolent infractions and for incidents involving preschool and elementary students.
  3. Set up a community-based advisory committee to monitor discipline data, hold public meetings and recommend policy changes.
  4. Use data related to school discipline to prevent and decrease behavior problems and to make decisions about school improvement.
  5. Provide extended learning opportunities for students to develop positive behaviors and social emotional skills.
  6. Administer discipline in a fair and equitable manner that does not disproportionately impact students of color or students with disabilities—or any other student demographic.
  7. Analyze the ways gender identity and gender expression may be influencing classroom management and school discipline decisions.
  8. Calculate the number of instructional hours your school lost to suspensions and disciplinary procedures in one school year.
  9. Incorporate active teaching of social skills into classroom instruction.
  10. Collaborate with juvenile justice advocates to divert youth from the justice system and ensure that the due process rights of students and families are protected.
  11. Invest in transition-to-kindergarten programs that help children to better adjust to the behavioral and social expectations of a school setting.
  12. Communicate school discipline policies in a manner that shows respect for the linguistic diversity in your school and community.
  13. Use mediation to teach youth how to resolve conflict and de-escalate potentially explosive situations.
  14. Meet the needs of the whole child with academic, social, emotional and behavioral services.
  15. Improve outreach by distributing appropriate information regarding school discipline policies to students, families and community partners.
  16. Prevent discipline problems with school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports.
  17. Ask students questions about alternative means of holding them accountable for their behavior that do not require removal from school.
  18. Implement restorative justice and restitution programs to improve school climate and develop problem-solving skills.
  19. Require school resource officers (SROs) to be trained in methods of differentiating criminal misconduct from misbehavior and in de-escalation strategies.
  20. Require teacher training on classroom management, behavioral interventions and the school-to-prison pipeline.
  21. Examine unconscious bias and its potential impact on the ways discipline is handled across different adult-student relationships at your school.
  22. Recruit and train local volunteers to mentor disengaged students.
  23. Address students’ unmet needs with wrap-around services, such as mental health support, counseling, mentoring, tutoring and social services.
  24. Set clear behavioral eXpectations, and give specific and public praise to students exhibiting appropriate behaviors.
  25. Resolve cases in youth court, where teenagers who have committed minor offenses are held accountable for repairing the harm caused by their actions.
  26. Abolish zero-tolerance school discipline policies and practices.

>> Download a PDF version of this list here.