Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

A Content Analysis of Catholic School Written Discipline Policies/Analisis del Contenido De Las Normas Escritas De Disciplina En Las Escuelas catolicas/Analyse Du Contenu Des Politiques Disciplinaires Ecrites Des Ecoles Catholiques

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

A Content Analysis of Catholic School Written Discipline Policies/Analisis del Contenido De Las Normas Escritas De Disciplina En Las Escuelas catolicas/Analyse Du Contenu Des Politiques Disciplinaires Ecrites Des Ecoles Catholiques

Article excerpt

A shift in education from a focus on the use of exclusionary discipline practices (e.g., suspension and expulsion), commonly used for even minor behavioral concerns (e.g., tardies), is increasingly being advocated by policy makers, researchers, and practitioners due to long-standing evidence that exclusionary practices do not promote school safety and have a significant, negative long-term impact on students (Skiba & Rausch, 2006). Students with behavior problems are likely to receive suspensions and expulsion, yet also have academic problems (Algozzine, Wang, & Violette, 2011; Morrison & D'Incau, 1997). Therefore, those caught in a behavior referral and subsequent suspension cycles are among those that are already behind academically and likely to get further behind after being removed from school through exclusionary discipline responses (Fenning, Theodos, Benner, & Bohanon-Edmonson, 2004; Morrison & D'Incau, 1997).

Long-standing research on exclusionary discipline reveals disparities by race and ethnicity. Specifically, African-American males have consistently and disproportionately been represented in school discipline (Children's Defense Fund, 1975; Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2000; Skiba, Horner, Chung, Rausch, May, & Tobin, 2011). For some time, researchers have explored the reasons why such long-standing racial and ethnic disparities exist, with no supporting evidence that ethnic minority students engage in more serious offenses to warrant these consequences (Skiba et al., 2000; Skiba et al., 2011). Of note, Black students are more likely to receive referrals for subjective events, such as classroom disrespect, when compared to referrals generated by Caucasian students (Skiba et al., 2011). More recently, a national data analysis of middle and high schools in the United States in 2009-2010 found that over two million students received one or more suspensions for mostly minor infractions (e.g., tardies, class disruption, and dress code issues), with even more disparity among Black students than the findings reported in the 1975 Children's Defense Fund study (Losen & Martinez, 2013). Suspension and expulsion, as forms of exclusionary discipline, are associated with school dropout and entry to the juvenile justice system, particularly among historically marginalized groups, such as racial and ethnic minority students, those in special education, and students with significant academic needs (Shapiro, Rodriguez, & Talip, 2014; US Department of Education, 2014). This phenomenon has been coined the "school to prison pipeline" (Wald & Losen, 2003).

As a result of these long-standing concerns related to the use of suspension and expulsion, particularly among students historically marginalized in schools, federal focus and guidance are increasingly being directed to school discipline reform. For example, the U.S. Department of Education released "Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline" (US Department of Education, 2014). The focus of the document is to provide schools with strategies to engage in prevention-oriented discipline practices that include building school climate and reserving suspension and expulsion for only the most serious behaviors that threaten school safety. Further, the US Dept. of Education report contains recommendations for the application of prevention-oriented supports in schools to address behavioral concerns rather than focusing on exclusion and punishment, such as multi-tiered systems of positive behavior support (Horner, Sugai, & Anderson, 2010) and system-wide social-emotional learning (Greenberg et al., 2003). While the tide is turning with respect to the convergence of federal policy, research, and practice recommendations for schools to engage in more prevention-oriented discipline practices, the content of public school written discipline policies that guide discipline decisions contain primarily punitive responses focused on suspension, even for minor behavioral infractions, such as tardies and truancies (Fenning et al. …

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