Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Beyond Behavior: Multilevel Analysis of the Influence of Sociodemographics and School Characteristics on Students' Risk of Suspension

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Beyond Behavior: Multilevel Analysis of the Influence of Sociodemographics and School Characteristics on Students' Risk of Suspension

Article excerpt

Educators commonly use exclusionary discipline strategies (i.e., suspension and expulsion) to address students' problem behavior even though they are ineffective for reducing unwanted behavior and are associated academic failure, dropout, and family disruption (Achilles, McLaughlin, & Croninger, 2007; American Academy of Pediatrics, 2003; American Psychological Association, 2008). Concern for the use of exclusionary discipline practice is compounded by consistent findings that these practices are disproportionately applied to certain groups of students, particularly those from racial-minority and low-socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds, and that racial disproportionality in particular has increased in the last 40 years (Skiba et al., 2011). Racial disproportionality in school discipline warrants attention because of the detrimental academic and social outcomes associated with exclusion and the compounding of this problem with other educational disparities (Skiba et al., 2011). Despite decades of consideration in research, practice, and policy, our understanding of the causes and correlates of discipline outcomes beyond students' behavior (i.e., the infractions that lead to suspension and expulsion) remains limited, as does our understanding of strategies to redress and prevent disparate application of exclusionary discipline.

Disproportionality in Discipline

Minority students, particularly Black students, are disproportionately subjected to exclusionary discipline relative to their White peers (Losen & Skiba, 2010). Findings pertaining to Latino and Native American students vary (Gregory, Skiba, & Noguera, 2010). Nationally representative estimates from 2003 indicated that Black students were more than twice as likely as White students to be suspended, whereas Hispanic and Native American students were 10% and 20% more likely to be suspended, respectively; Asian students had the lowest suspension rates (KewelRamani, Gilbertson, Fox, & Provasnik, 2007). Across all racial groups, males were twice as likely as female students to be suspended, and Black males had the highest rates of all subgroups. Skiba and colleagues (2011) used a national data set to demonstrate that Black students were increasingly overrepresented in office discipline referrals from elementary through middle school compared to White students, whereas Latino students were only overrepresented in middle school. Relative risk of suspension varied by infraction type, but in general, Black and Latino students had significantly elevated risk of exclusionary discipline relative to White students. Thus, race did not predict office discipline referral, but it did predict suspension and expulsion, which suggested the need for greater attention to differential treatment of minority students rather than to the particular student behaviors that precede disciplinary practices. Although this study considered both Black and Latino disproportionality, there is a general dearth of research examining potential disproportionality for non-Black minority groups, which is problematic given the increasing diversity in schools.

Educators and researchers have offered several hypotheses for disproportionality in exclusionary discipline. A popular early hypothesis was that students with low SES engage in more problem behaviors, which resulted in greater incidence of disciplinary exclusion. However, multiple studies have documented that racial disproportionality in discipline persists even after controlling for SES (Skiba et al., 2011). Another hypothesis is the cultural mismatch between teachers and minority students. This supposition is supported by research demonstrating that Black students are more likely than their White peers to be punished for more minor or subjective behaviors (Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002). To date, the evidence is mixed and suggests the need to move beyond student conduct and examine other factors underpinning this phenomenon. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.