AERA Sixth Centennial Lecture Spotlights School Discipline in Boston
AERA Sixth Centennial Lecture Spotlights School Discipline in Boston

April 2017

On April 12, AERA held its sixth, and final, Centennial Lecture and Discussion Forum in Boston, with Russell Skiba of Indiana University as the featured lecturer. 

In his lecture, titled “
School Discipline: Issues of Equity and Effectiveness,” Skiba addressed the history and current status of school discipline reform and discussed how to best develop and maintain safe, productive, and equitable learning climates for all students.

The event, held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, drew a diverse and highly engaged audience of more than 270, with hundreds more joining online. Attendees included teachers, education researchers, local and state education policy leaders, and other members of the public.

Skiba’s talk prompted a lively conversation with expert commentators and attendees on school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline.

“One of the assumptions underlying exclusionary discipline is that such punishments have a deterrent effect on punished students,” said Skiba, a professor in the School Psychology program at Indiana University and director of the university’s Equity Project. “In fact, there is little evidence that the removal of disruptive students will yield a safer or more effective school climate that is more conducive to learning for those students who remain."

“Rather than supporting the idea that suspension and expulsion contribute to more appropriate behavior or safer schools, available evidence supports the reality of what has come to be called the school-to-prison pipeline, wherein exclusion from school predicts academic disengagement, dropout, and an increased probability of involvement with the juvenile justice system,” Skiba said.

The lecture was followed by a “living-room style” open forum, where local experts in school discipline joined Skiba onstage and offered initial comments directed to identifying issues for audience consideration and discussion. Deborah Becker (WBUR radio) moderated the discussion, with Rachelle Engler Bennett (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education), Matt Cregor (Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice), and William Rodriguez (Wheelock College) serving as commentators.                                                                                                          

The AERA Centennial Lecture and Discussion Forums were a national, six-city series promoting public engagement and fostering new conversations between the education research community and policy and practice sectors across the country. All six lectures are available to view on AERA’s Centennial site.

AERA will continue the lecture series beyond the Centennial year with the start of the AERA Second Century Lecture and Discussion Forum Series beginning in the fall of 2017.