Federal & State Guidance

Federal guidance

Exclusionary discipline practices and zero-tolerance policies disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education offers recommendations to schools on meeting their obligations under federal law to administer discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, or disability. These recommendations include the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) and restorative practices to foster safe, supportive school climates.

Race, color, and national origin

In January 2014, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter that offers guidance for schools on administering discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The departments’ recommendations include the use of PBIS and restorative practices to ensure that discipline is administered equitably.

Learn about the 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter


In August 2016, the U.S. Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that offers recommendations on providing PBIS to students with disabilities as part of an individualized education program.

Learn about the 2016 “Dear Colleague” letter

State guidance

HEA 1419

In 2009, Indiana’s General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1419, which required the Indiana Department of Education to develop a model evidence-based plan for improving behavior and discipline in schools. School corporations then were required to use the model plan to develop their own plans to be submitted to the Department of Education.

However, this legislation is no longer in effect, and school corporations are not required to create plans or submit them to the Department of Education.

The model plan included guidelines for:

  • Improving safe school planning and classroom management using positive behavior supports, parental involvement, and other effective disciplinary tools.
  • Providing improved mental health services in or through schools.
  • Reviewing zero tolerance policies to ensure compliance with applicable laws and that students are not inappropriately referred to juvenile justice agencies.
  • Providing assistance to parents concerning access to family-strengthening programs.
  • Improving communication, coordination, and collaboration among schools, including special education programs, parents, and juvenile justice agencies.
  • Improving methods and procedures for school suspensions and referrals to alternative programs.
  • Providing for the collection, review, and reporting on an annual basis of school behavior and disciplinary problems, arrests, and referrals to the juvenile justice system, disaggregated on the basis of race and ethnicity, under guidelines for determining the existence of disproportionality in discipline or inappropriately high rates of suspension or expulsion.