Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in School Discipline among U.S. High School Students: 1991-2005

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in School Discipline among U.S. High School Students: 1991-2005

Article excerpt


Large nationally representative samples of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian American, and American Indian students were used in this study to examine current patterns and recent trends in racial, ethnic, and gender differences in school discipline from 1991 to 2005. Findings revealed that Black, Hispanic, and American Indian youth are slightly more likely than White and Asian American youth to be sent to the principal's office and two to five times more likely to be suspended or expelled. Although school discipline rates decreased over time for most racial and ethnic groups, the rates for Black students' school disciplinary measures increased between 1991 and 2005. Logistic regression analyses that controlled for racial and ethnic differences in sociodemographic factors suggest that those differences in school discipline do not result from differences in socioeconomic status. Authors suggest that future research and practice efforts seek to better understand and to eliminate racial, ethnic, and gender disproportionality as a first step in school discipline.


School disciplinary practices exclude hundreds of thousands of young people in the United States from the educational process each year. School discipline takes a variety of forms, from minor actions like sending students to the principal's office or requiring them to stay after school, to more severe sanctions that include suspension and expulsion. According to the most recent School Survey on Crime and Safety:

Forty-eight percent of public schools (approximately 39,600 schools) took a serious disciplinary action against a student for specific offenses during the 2005-06 school year. Of those disciplinary actions, 74% were suspensions lasting five days or more, 5% were removals with no services (i.e., expulsions), and 20% were transfers to specialized schools (Dinkes, Cataldi, Lin-Kelly, & Snyder, 2007, p. 56).

The Office of Civil Rights' Elementary and Secondary Survey: 2000, a study that included 97% of the nation's schools districts and 99% of its schools, found that there were a total of 3,053,449 student suspensions and 97,177 expulsions in 2000 (U.S. Department of Education, 2000).

Although disciplinary practices that remove students from classrooms and schools are used widely, their use is not distributed equally across the population. Research from the 1970s to the present has documented that White students are not as likely as Black students to experience school discipline (The Civil Rights Project/Advancement Project, 2000; Nichols, Ludwin, & Iadicola, 1999; Raffaele Méndez & Knoff, 2003; Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002; Skiba, Peterson, & Williams, 1997). For example, although Black youth comprise only 17% of the nation's public school students, they account for 32% of the students suspended (Raffaele Méndez & Knoff, 2003). Past research has referred to the overrepresentation in numbers of Black students that are disciplined at school as "racial disproportionality." Nationally, Black students are more than twice as likely as White students to be suspended or expelled, and in urban districts the disparity has been found to range from 3 to 22 times as likely (The Civil Rights Project/ Advancement Project, 2000; Raffaele Méndez & Knoff, 2003; Wald & Losen, 2003). Although a substantial number of studies have found that Black students disproportionately experience school discipline, 'fewer investigations have explored disciplinary disproportionality among students of other ethnic backgrounds, and those studies have yielded inconsistent results" (Skiba et al. , 2002, p. 3 19). Given the paucity of research on school discipline among racial and ethnic minority groups, the inconsistent results of past research, and the United States' rapidly increasing racial and ethnic diversity, we recognized a need to further examine national policies and patterns of racial and ethnic differences and similarities in the experience of school discipline among high-school students in the United States. …

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