Eliminating Excessive and Disparate School Discipline: A Review of Research and Policy Reform

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Losen and Smith-Evans Haynes review the status and consequences of school discipline and how overly punitive practices have a negative and disparate impact. The authors describe policy efforts to curb excessive disciplinary exclusion that would help all students and decrease the harm to students of color and those with disabilities. Some of these harms have serious consequences in the long term, such as the impact on students’ opportunities for civic engagement and educational attainment and the high economic burden to society of prioritizing punishment given the higher associated risks for dropping out and juvenile justice involvement. Losen and Smith-Evans Haynes trace important recent policy reforms in school discipline at the federal, state, and district level, and recommend further reforms for more equitable disciplinary systems.

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The benefits and challenges of cross-sector collaboration are well outlined in the literature on community network development. Two sectors, schools and community behavioral health agencies, often work with the same youth inasmuch as students with behavioral difficulties in schools may also receive services from behavioral health providers. The purpose of this article is to present a case study on the implementation of a screening, triage, and referral process developed by a Central Virginia school system and community service board as part of a collaborative network which may provide generalized lessons that other organizations consider when addressing behavioral problems in schools.
The resilience of high‐achieving Black male students is often overshadowed in scholarly literature by narratives of deficit, disorder, and disdain that position Black males as particularly vulnerable in educational spaces. This study builds from two prior analyses of a group of mathematically high‐achieving Black males living in high‐poverty urban communities and attending underresourced schools during their middle school years and focuses on the external risk and protective factors these students experienced during high school. Findings suggest that Black male high achievers were forced to overcome a confluence of institutional and curricular barriers while leveraging relational and organizational resources that promoted positive identity development and mathematics achievement.
This study investigated connections between sexual and gender minority youths’ (SGMY) experiences with bullying victimization and their experiences with punishment. We interviewed 20 diverse adolescents (X = 18.45) about their experiences with bullying and school discipline. Using a qualitative mapping technique, we analyzed the pathways between victimization and punishment that emerged from our participants’ narratives. Our analyses revealed that among the adolescents who had experienced victimization related to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (or expression) (n = 17), most of them (n = 15) had also experienced punishment connected to their victimization. We identified five pathways linking victimization and bullying. Further, we found that the majority of participants were navigating school contexts rife with pervasive and ongoing harassment and that adults ineffectively intervened and often compounded the harm experienced.
Suspension has been found to be associated with a number of negative short- and long-term consequences, including academic disengagement, decreased academic achievement, dropping out of school, and increased contact with the juvenile justice system.
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Crime alerts are meant to raise community awareness and identify individual criminal suspects; they are not expected to affect attitudes and beliefs toward the social group to which an individual suspect belongs. However, psychological principles of learning, categorization, and memory predict that what is learned about an instance can color perception of an entire category. At the intersection of psychology, criminal justice, sociology, and media studies, two experiments were conducted to test the effect that providing individual racial identity in crime alerts has on racial group stereotypes. In Experiment 1, participants visualized four scenarios involving Black or White would-be criminals. Results revealed that in the case where Black would-be criminals were made salient in memory, participants demonstrated significantly more negative implicit stereotypes toward Blacks as a group compared with a condition in which White would-be criminals were more salient in memory. In Experiment 2, participants read a written description of a crime scene with a suspect who was either depicted as White or Black, and then imagined the suspect. On both implicit and explicit measures of group stereotypes obtained afterward, participants who read about a Black criminal reported and revealed more anti-Black/pro-White stereotypes than did those who read about a White criminal. Crime alerts that mention racial identity, whatever their benefit, come with the burden of shifting stereotypes of social groups. In this context, the value of racial identification in crime alerts warrants reconsideration.
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As school resource officer (SRO) programs continue to be widely implemented, there is concern that an increasing police presence at schools will “criminalize” student behavior by moving problematic students to the juvenile justice system rather than disciplining them at school. If true, this has serious implications for students and schools; yet research on this topic is limited and the discourse is often based on speculation or anecdotal evidence. To address this issue, this study evaluated the impact of SROs on school-based arrest rates by comparing arrests at thirteen schools with an SRO to fifteen schools without an SRO in the same district. Poisson and negative binomial regression models showed that having an SRO did not predict more total arrests, but did predict more arrests for disorderly conduct. Conversely, having an SRO decreased the arrest rate for assault and weapons charges. Implications of these findings for understanding SROs and their role in criminalizing student behavior are discussed.
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Nonheterosexual adolescents are vulnerable to health risks including addiction, bullying, and familial abuse. We examined whether they also suffer disproportionate school and criminal-justice sanctions. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health followed a nationally representative sample of adolescents who were in grades 7 through 12 in 1994-1995. Data from the 1994-1995 survey and the 2001-2002 follow-up were analyzed. Three measures were used to assess nonheterosexuality: same-sex attraction, same-sex romantic relationships, and lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) self-identification. Six outcomes were assessed: school expulsion; police stops; juvenile arrest; juvenile conviction; adult arrest; and adult conviction. Multivariate analyses controlled for adolescents' sociodemographics and behaviors, including illegal conduct. Nonheterosexuality consistently predicted a higher risk for sanctions. For example, in multivariate analyses, nonheterosexual adolescents had greater odds of being stopped by the police (odds ratio: 1.38 [P < .0001] for same-sex attraction and 1.53 [P < .0001] for LGB self-identification). Similar trends were observed for school expulsion, juvenile arrest and conviction, and adult conviction. Nonheterosexual girls were at particularly high risk. Nonheterosexual youth suffer disproportionate educational and criminal-justice punishments that are not explained by greater engagement in illegal or transgressive behaviors. Understanding and addressing these disparities might reduce school expulsions, arrests, and incarceration and their dire social and health consequences.
This study used negative binomial regression to investigate whether exposure to novice teachers and risk for identification for special education predicted suspension rates. Data from the 2009-2010 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) was used. The sample was comprised of 72,168 schools from nearly 7,000 school districts from nearly every state. Identification as having emotional disturbance and specific learning disabilities were found to predict an increase in suspension rates for some subgroups across some school levels. Conversely, identification as being autistic was found to predict a decrease in suspension rates for some subgroups across some school levels. Policy implications are discussed.
This study is based upon a longitudinal analysis of data for a cohort of 181,897 Florida state students who were first time 9th graders in the 2000-01 school year and follows them trough to high school and post-secondary outcomes. Analysis of 9th grade suspension data finds that black students, students who are economically disadvantaged, and special education students are three demographics subgroups that are disproportionately suspended, both in the frequency of suspensions and the duration in number of school days lost. While poverty and ethnicity are themselves highly correlated, poverty alone does not explain the disproportionate suspension rates amongst black students. Further analyses show that out-of-school suspensions in the 9th grade year are also significantly and negatively correlated to later high school graduation as well as post-secondary enrolment and persistence. Thus demographic disparities in disciplinary incidents serve to further widen any academic achievement gaps. Closer analysis though shows though that disciplinary incidents are interrelated with other of indicators of student disengagement from school, such as course failures and absenteeism. Therefore, policies seeking to address these issues cannot focus on reducing suspensions alone, but must also address student attendance and course passing in a comprehensive and systematic manner.
There are large racial disparities in school discipline in the United States, which, for Black students, not only contribute to school failure but also can lay a path toward incarceration. Although the disparities have been well documented, the psychological mechanisms underlying them are unclear. In two experiments, we tested the hypothesis that such disparities are, in part, driven by racial stereotypes that can lead teachers to escalate their negative responses to Black students over the course of multiple interpersonal (e.g., teacher-to-student) encounters. More generally, we argue that race not only can influence how perceivers interpret a specific behavior, but also can enhance perceivers' detection of behavioral patterns across time. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and practical benefits of employing this novel approach to stereotyping across a range of real-world settings. © The Author(s) 2015.
It is widely recognized that African-American youth are significantly overrepresented in many juvenile justice systems relative to their population percentages. Research has also determined that similar disproportion exists in school discipline and speculated about a “school-to-prison pipeline” for minority youth. Objective. This study explores empirically the degree to which disciplinary decisions made in schools can help to explain observed rates of disproportionate minority contact with juvenile courts. Methods. It does so in an assessment of education and justice system data from a sample of counties in Missouri. Results. The findings suggest that racial disproportion in out-of-school suspensions, which cannot be explained solely by differences in delinquent behavior, is strongly associated with similar levels of disproportion in juvenile court referrals. The association between disproportionate patterns of school discipline and court referrals persists after controlling for poverty, urbanization, and other relevant factors. Conclusions. The implication is that school-based programs that offer alternatives to suspension and expulsion and promote disciplinary equity may help alleviate racial disproportion in the juvenile justice system.
Historical representations explicitly depicting Blacks as apelike have largely disappeared in the United States, yet a mental association between Blacks and apes remains. Here, the authors demonstrate that U.S. citizens implicitly associate Blacks and apes. In a series of laboratory studies, the authors reveal how this association influences study participants' basic cognitive processes and significantly alters their judgments in criminal justice contexts. Specifically, this Black-ape association alters visual perception and attention, and it increases endorsement of violence against Black suspects. In an archival study of actual criminal cases, the authors show that news articles written about Blacks who are convicted of capital crimes are more likely to contain ape-relevant language than news articles written about White convicts. Moreover, those who are implicitly portrayed as more apelike in these articles are more likely to be executed by the state than those who are not. The authors argue that examining the subtle persistence of specific historical representations such as these may not only enhance contemporary research on dehumanization, stereotyping, and implicit processes but also highlight common forms of discrimination that previously have gone unrecognized.
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