School Discipline & Homelessness

Youth who are experiencing homelessness face significant challenges and endure more adverse childhood experiences than most other kids. Acting out is a trauma response for these youth, but it is often mistaken for delinquent behavior. However, youth who are experiencing homelessness should not be taken out of school because many of them do not have a safe place to go and end up wandering the streets. That is why we helped eliminate most out-of-school suspensions for youth experiencing homelessness or in foster care, and ensured that schools consider these students’ circumstances when deciding on any disciplinary action. 

Team Members

Headshot of Brett Merfish

Brett M. Merfish

Director of Youth Justice,
Youth Homelessness Project, Juvenile Justice Project

Headshot of Martin Martinez

Martin A. Martinez, M.P.Aff

Senior Policy Analyst,
Youth Homelessness Project, Juvenile Justice Project

Key Statistics

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Youth experiencing homelessness are 2.5 times more likely to be suspended from school (OSS), despite not having a stable home to which to return, and twice as likely to be referred to In-School Suspension (ISS).

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Youth experiencing homelessness are five times more likely to be referred to a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP).

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Youth experiencing homelessness are most commonly referred to these three types of exclusionary discipline: ISS, OSS, and DAEPs for violating student codes of conduct (the lowest level of disciplinary violation) — not for fighting or drug possession.