Exclusionary Discipline Practices across Students' Racial/ethnic Backgrounds and Disability Status: Findings from the Pacific Northwest

Article excerpt

Abstract

We examined 2009-2010 data on exclusionary discipline practices from one state in the Pacific Northwest of the United States across students' racial/ethnic backgrounds and disability status. Our focus was on proportionate representation in exclusionary discipline actions and in the duration of those disciplinary actions. Descriptive outcomes indicated that among students with disability American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students were over-represented in removal to alternative education. Among students without a disability, Hispanic students were most notably over-represented in all exclusionary discipline practices. African-American students with and without disability lost approximately twice as many days as White students to exclusionary discipline. Follow-up CM-Square tests showed that non-White students were statistically significantly over-represented in most exclusionary practices. ANOVA results indicated that both disability status and race significantly impacted the duration of exclusions. Recommendations for future research are provided.

Recently, disciplinary exclusions of students have attracted national media attention (Carr, 2010; Schwartz, 2011). According to the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics, 21.6% of all public school students in grades 6 through 12 had been suspended at least once in 2007, and a total of 3.4% had been expelled (Aud, Fox, & KewalRamani, 2010). Disaggregated by racial/ethnic background, African-American students are most affected by exclusionary discipline practices: 42.8% were suspended and 12.8% were expelled in 2007, compared to 15.6% and 1.0% respectively of their White peers (Aud et al., 2010). Students with a disability tend to be excluded from the classroom disproportionately more often and for longer durations than students without a disability (Vincent & Tobin, 2011). Students with emotional and behavioral disorders, depression, or mental illness face an especially high risk of being excluded (Achilles, McLaughlin, & Croninger, 2007; Krezmien, Leone, & Achilles, 2006). Unfortunately, the use of exclusionary discipline practices appears to have increased over the last decade. Cregor and Hewitt (2011) report that between 2001 and 2007 the number of out-of-school suspensions in the Chicago Public Schools quadrupled. Losen and Skiba (2010) report that suspension rates for K-12 students have "at least doubled since the early 1970's for all non-Whites" (p. 2), with the racial gap between Black and White suspension rates increasing from 3 percentage points in 1973 to 10 percentage points in 2000.

One aspect of exclusionary discipline practices is their inconsistent use. Great variability of implementation across geographic regions, locales, and student groups suggests that being excluded from school has less to do with the behavioral violation a student engaged in and more with which school the student attends and the student's racial/ethnic background (Skiba et al., 2011; Wu, Pink, Crain, & Moles, 1982). Skiba et al. (2011) found that African-American elementary students were 3.75 times more likely than White students to be suspended out of school for minor misbehaviors including inappropriate language, defiance, non-compliance, and disruption. At the middle school level, African-American students were more likely than White students to be suspended or expelled for abusive language, bullying, lying and cheating, and tardiness or truancy, while Hispanic students were more likely than White students to be suspended for minor misbehaviors, particularly non-compliance.

The disproportionately high representation of minority students among students who are suspended or expelled has been well documented in the research literature (Kaufman et al., 2010; Krezmien et al., 2006; Theriot, Craun, & Dupper, 2010). African-American students are more likely to be suspended than students of other racial/ethnic backgrounds, and tend to be suspended for subjectively interpretable offenses, such as non-compliance and disrespect (Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2005; costenbader & markson, 1998; Gregory & Ripski, 2008; Skiba & Sprague, 2008). …