The Effects of Suspension Policy on Learning: Evidence from Gender Gaps in Exceptional Districts

27 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2018

Date Written: September 14, 2018


I study the effects of suspension policy on student learning in grades three through eight using variation across America’s school districts. While the effects of district-level suspension rates on student performance are naturally confounded with student behavior, districts with very atypical rates of in-school or out-of-school suspension may be likely to have adopted exceptional policies, rather than having exceptional students. Following this intuition, I identify exceptional districts using the rate of suspensions for females and ask whether in such apparent policy-adopting districts, males learn relatively faster compared to their female counterparts. Differencing rates of learning across genders is motivated by the fact that males are disciplined at about twice the rate as females in American schools; thus, the direct effects (though possibly not the peer effects) of suspension policy should be larger for males than for females. Among the mid-to-large size districts I study, males learn more slowly on average, but these gaps are smaller for districts that lean toward in-school suspension and districts that use suspension little. The evidence for benefits from policies favoring in-school suspension use is the most robust. I conclude with a discussion of the potential costs involved for districts that heavily use out-of-school suspension to switch to in-school suspension, the policy reform most justified by my findings.

Keywords: discipline policy reform, student suspensions, student achievement

Suggested Citation

DiSalvo, Richard, The Effects of Suspension Policy on Learning: Evidence from Gender Gaps in Exceptional Districts (September 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Richard DiSalvo (Contact Author)

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

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