Using Data

Data can be a powerful tool in exploring and challenging the school-to-prison pipeline. Obtaining and making sense of data can be a challenge. Here are some resources that can make that job easier.

Nationwide Discipline Data

The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) is collected and posted online by the U.S. Department of Education every two years. All schools receiving federal funding, including charter schools, are required to report school discipline data on the use of suspensions, expulsions, corporal punishment, expulsion, referrals to law enforcement, and school-related arrests. On April 24, 2018, the Education Department released the CRDC for the 2015-16 school yearAdditional state-level data on the discipline of students with disabilities can be found here.

Getting Started

Here are some tools that can help you get started working with the CRDC: a webinar on using civil rights data (June 2018) and a presentation by Education Department staff (December 2016) on navigating the website. Several new data tools were added to the site in 2016 that perform simple calculations and comparisons. Both of the above-mentioned resources (webinar and ED presentation) describe how to use these data tools. For more how-to resources on working with discipline and education data, see our "Working with Data" sidebar.

Requesting Data

To obtain the latest federal data for your school, district or charter, use the tools on the CRDC website or submit a request to your district or charter using your state's open records law. We have developed this template for requesting discipline and enrollment data. Information about state open records law can be found here. Take the template, substitute the name of your state’s open records or right to know law  and any other relevant specifics (such as deadlines imposed by law and a request for a fee waiver), and file it. Here is an example of a response we received from a Pennsylvania district for data on one middle school.  

State Discipline Data

Some state education departments publish discipline data online. Sites vary in sophistication from simple spreadsheets to search tools (e.g., California's Data Quest, Massachusetts' School and District Profiles, and Maryland's Student Arrest Data Collection and Staff and Student Publications portal). Typically, state data is collected annually. It is typically more current, but less comprehensive, than the federal CRDC, and some states continue to struggle with reporting the proper data required by law (e.g. Louisiana's Policing Data GapHawaii's Inaccurate Restraint Data). Here is a slightly out-of-date survey of what states post online: overall discipline data (as of 9/2013) and data on students with disabilities (as of the summer 2014).   


In Pennsylvania, the Department of Education maintains Pennsylvania Safe Schools Online, an annual collection of data on reported misconduct, discipline, and truancy. The most recent posting covers the 2015-16 school year. State data used in our Pennsylvania report, Beyond Zero Tolerance, can be downloaded here.

Using Data as an Advocate

Older Resources

P.O. Box 60173

Philadelphia, PA 19102

877-PHL-ACLU (745-2258)

Last updated January 28, 2020

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