The Oakland Board of Education recently adopted a host of changes to its student discipline policy, many of which were recommended in the Urban Strategies Council report, African American Male Achievement Initiative: A Closer Look at Suspensions of African American Males in OUSD (May 2012) and reiterated in the Voluntary Resolution Plan issued by the Office Of Civil Rights. Our earlier report revealed highly disproportionate suspension rates for African American males: while African American boys comprised 17% of the OUSD student population in 2010-11, they comprised 42% of students suspended and were suspended at a rate six times higher than the rate for white males across the district.

The Board’s policy revisions include:

  • Prohibiting defiance as grounds for expulsion and strongly discouraging it as grounds for suspension. In addition, defiance is now clearly defined whereas previously it was highly subjective. (Our report found that disruption-defiance of authority accounted for the highest percentage (38%) of suspensions for African American males in OUSD, accounting for 599 suspensions in 2010-11).
  • Requiring documentation for in-school, out-of-school, and classroom referrals. Previously, documentation was only required for out-of-school suspensions, despite the importance of tracking in-school suspensions to identify whether some students are missing more class time than others through this disciplinary mechanism.
  • Requiring additional changes in data collection and review as well as an emphasis on positive, restorative practices.


We applaud the Board for this move toward universally improving the student discipline policy and targeting for improvement those practices that were contributing to high suspension rates for those experiencing the greatest disparities. Click here to read a summary of the changes followed by the entire set of amended documents.