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How Educators Can Eradicate Disparities in School Discipline

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Abstract

Gregory, Bell, and Pollock offer principles and practices to help schools move beyond punitive discipline and toward conflict prevention and intervention. They argue that eradication of disproportionate punitive disciplinary sanctions begins by engaging and motivating students before the conflict occurs. Their chapter details four guiding prevention principles and practices: culturally relevant and responsive teaching, supportive relationships, academic rigor, and respectful school environments with bias-free classrooms. Additionally, Gregory et al. suggest four equity-oriented principles and practices for conflict intervention: problem-solving approaches to discipline, inquiry into the causes of conflicts, inclusion of the student and family on causes of and solutions to conflicts, and reintegration of students post-conflict.
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... Racial disparities also exist in the response to youth in schools reflected in the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects students of color. Students of color comprise 79% of school-based arrests and 80% of referrals to law enforcement despite only representing 39% of the national public school population (Gregory, Bell, & Pollock, 2014). Higher percentages of Black, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaskan Native students receive disciplinary action compared to White and Asian American students (Pfleger & Wiley, 2012;Walsh, 2015). ...
... Discipline disparities are notably greater in subjective categories such as defiance or insubordination compared to objective categories such as physical assault (Blake, Butler, Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011). These disparities in subjective categories have been conceptualized as criminalization of behavior among students of color, defined as "the tendency for adults to unjustifiably perceive student appearance, body language, or behavior as threatening or defiant of authority and rules" (Gregory et al., 2014). These disparities are concerning from a trauma-informed perspective that recognizes trauma-related symptoms such as behavioral problems and aggression (Fowler, Tompsett, Braciszewski, Jacques-Tiura, & Baltes, 2009;Guerra, Huesmann, & Spindler, 2003) and lower academic functioning (Busby, Lambert, & Ialongo, 2013;Jain & Cohen, 2013;Stoddard et al., 2013;Voisin, Patel, Hong, Takahashi, & Gaylord-Harden, 2016;Wright, Austin, Booth, & Kliewer, 2017) are more likely being met with punitive responses rather than trauma-specific services. ...
... Implicit biases are often outside of an individual's awareness and may conflict with one's conscious beliefs and values (Devine & Sharp, 2009) but may nevertheless predict discriminatory behavior (Gilliam, Maupin, Reyes, Accavitti, & Shic, 2016;Hoffman, Trawalter, Axt, & Oliver, 2016). For example, a clinician's lack of cultural self-awareness and attention to power dynamics may lead to inaccurate assumptions and misdiagnosis (e.g., conduct disorder instead of posttraumatic stress disorder), potentially contributing to the disproportional representation and disparities in outcomes for racial/ethnic minority children in out-of-home care (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2016) or in education and juvenile justice systems (Gregory et al., 2014). Although often outside of awareness, implicit biases can be identified and changed with intentional effort (Devine & Sharp, 2009). ...
... Because of well-documented discipline disparities, policymakers and researchers have called for the use of supportive strategies that address disciplinary issues and keep students in school (Gregory, Bell, & Pollock, 2014;US Department of Education, 2014). Some of the supportive strategies that schools utilize include structured programs such as positive behavioral intervention supports (PBIS) and restorative justice (RJ). ...
... Beyond discipline disparities, we find that more supportive strategies are associated with lower odds of suspension and more punitive practices are associated with higher odds of suspension, a finding that also aligns with past research (Day et al., 2016;Gregory et al., 2014). This finding applies to the full sample as well as for LGBT youth. ...
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Recently, schools have focused on supportive (e.g., behavioral supports) rather than punitive (e.g., suspension) strategies to reduce school pushout among marginalized youth. We examined the association between suspension and discipline practices for students with intersecting identities (e.g., LGBT youth of color). We used teacher and student data from 1,091 schools that participated in the California School Climate and California Healthy Kids Surveys. Relative to White LGBT youth, LGBT youth of color were at higher risk of being suspended, and youth were differentially affected by punitive policies depending on their race, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity. While supportive strategies were associated with lower risk of suspension, punitive practices were associated with higher risk of suspension, especially for LGBT youth of color.
... Racially disparate disciplinary practices plague the U.S. education system, as Black youth are more likely than their White peers to be suspended for discretionary, minor, and non-violent infractions (hereafter referred to as a suspension for minor infraction). This longstanding discipline gap has been linked to educators' implicit biases and lowquality student-teacher relationships (Gregory, Bell, & Pollock, 2016;Skiba, Arredondo, & Williams, 2014) that result in Black students' less favorable school experiences than their White peers (Wang & Degol, 2016). Indeed, Black students' sense of school belonging, relationships with school adults, and perceptions of the fairness of school rules decline substantially after receiving a suspension for minor infraction (Huang & Cornell, 2018). ...
Article
Racially disparate school disciplinary practices create inequitable circumstances for minority and immigrant youth around the world. In the U.S., Black youth are more likely than their White peers to be suspended for minor, non-violent infractions. This study explores (a) whether school cultural socialization practices reported by Black students (N = 544; Mage (SD) = 12.45 (1.57); 49% boys) and teachers (N = 38; 84% female) were linked to a reduced likelihood of receiving suspensions for minor infractions and (b) the extent to which Black students' perceptions of school climate mediated this relation. Results indicated that school cultural socialization was linked to a decreased likelihood of being suspended for a minor infraction and improved school climate perceptions for Black students. Black students’ perception of school climate mediated the link between school cultural socialization and suspensions for minor infractions. These results highlight school cultural socialization as a promising approach for increasing cultural responsivity and equity within schools, reducing racial bias, and expunging unjust disciplinary responses.
... When amending policies, schools can collaborate with parents and community members, specifically those underrepresented (Anderson, 2020;Banks & Obiakor, 2015). The collaborative process will enhance positive relations and provide perspectives that may alleviate or prevent future conflicts (Anyon et al., 2016;Gregory, Bell, & Pollock, 2016). If policies are not already established, schools should develop a sex trafficking response plan to be able to clearly identify, assess, and report sex-trafficked youth. ...
Chapter
Human trafficking is widely regarded by experts today as “modern slavery.” Research consistently reveals that survivors of the sex trade are disproportionately women of color in the United States. Such racial disparities are explained by a long history of structural racism and inequality resultant of colonialism. Colonial knowledge production systems are responsible for producing and maintaining anti-black sexual archetypes premised on the pornographic objectification of Black women’s bodies. The hypersexual scripting and adultification of the Black body help to explain why sex trafficking impacts Black girls at higher rates compared to other groups. This also explains why Black youth are less likely to be perceived as victims. In this chapter, we connect the disproportionate impact of sex trafficking to reporting barriers and the often harsher, exclusionary discipline and punitive treatment of Black female youth experienced in the K-12 setting. Although sex trafficking awareness among educators is improving in the U.S., we call attention to the pivotal role that educational leaders can play in the prevention of sex trafficking by working in collaboration with the community and local stakeholders to create a shift in culture, response and policy.
... Restorative practices are used as a schoolwide multitiered intervention focused on relationship building and addressing wrongdoing through a system of macro and micro supports (International Institute for Restorative Practices, 2014). Studies have suggested that restorative practices can improve relationships, reduce punitive and exclusionary discipline, and increase teacher respect toward racially diverse students (Anyon et al., 2014;Gregory, Bell, & Pollock, 2014;Lustick, 2017). Such outcomes can foster safety and trust, which are essential to effectively work with students exposed to traumatic events (Rossen & Cowan, 2013). ...
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Given the unique forms of trauma that some Black and Brown youths are exposed to, and the salience of race and racial bias in discipline decision making, this article proposes that discipline interventions should be both race centered and trauma informed. Using critical race theory (CRT), trauma-informed practice literature, and restorative practice philosophies, this article presents a framework that highlights how schools can incorporate racial equity into mental health practices and discipline decision making with students. Namely, CRT tenets such as the centrality of race and racism, challenging the dominant perspective, valuing experiential knowledge, and the commitment to social justice guide authors' recommendations on discipline decision making. Using an interprofessional perspective, this framework delineates how school social workers, school psychologists, and school counselors can support their schools to integrate interprofessional, trauma-informed, and race-centered practices into a behavioral intervention. Ultimately, this article provides in-terpersonal, practice, and structural recommendations that can help practitioners engage in equitable discipline decision making.
... School counselor practice. As educational leaders who are often involved in behavior and discipline issues, advocacy for the creation of safe, supportive, and productive learning environments through the implementation of promising practices such as positive behavioral supports, restorative justice, and social emotional learning (SEL) is warranted (Gregory, Bell & Pollock, 2014;NASP, 2013). Likewise, while many school counselors do not have decision-making power regarding the use of exclusionary discipline, they can advocate for more supportive, positive, and educational discipline and behavior systems by being abreast of the extensive research and literature linking zero tolerance policies and exclusionary discipline practices to negative student outcomes, especially for African American students. ...
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Adolescence is a distinct, yet transient, period of development between childhood and adulthood characterized by increased experimentation and risk-taking, a tendency to discount long-term consequences, and heightened sensitivity to peers and other social influences. A key function of adolescence is developing an integrated sense of self, including individualization, separation from parents, and personal identity. Experimentation and novelty-seeking behavior, such as alcohol and drug use, unsafe sex, and reckless driving, are thought to serve a number of adaptive functions despite their risks. Research indicates that for most youth, the period of risky experimentation does not extend beyond adolescence, ceasing as identity becomes settled with maturity. Much adolescent involvement in criminal activity is part of the normal developmental process of identity formation and most adolescents will mature out of these tendencies. Evidence of significant changes in brain structure and function during adolescence strongly suggests that these cognitive tendencies characteristic of adolescents are associated with biological immaturity of the brain and with an imbalance among developing brain systems. This imbalance model implies dual systems: one involved in cognitive and behavioral control and one involved in socio-emotional processes. Accordingly adolescents lack mature capacity for self-regulations because the brain system that influences pleasure-seeking and emotional reactivity develops more rapidly than the brain system that supports self-control. This knowledge of adolescent development has underscored important differences between adults and adolescents with direct bearing on the design and operation of the justice system, raising doubts about the core assumptions driving the criminalization of juvenile justice policy in the late decades of the 20th century. It was in this context that the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) asked the National Research Council to convene a committee to conduct a study of juvenile justice reform. The goal of Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach was to review recent advances in behavioral and neuroscience research and draw out the implications of this knowledge for juvenile justice reform, to assess the new generation of reform activities occurring in the United States, and to assess the performance of OJJDP in carrying out its statutory mission as well as its potential role in supporting scientifically based reform efforts. © 2013 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Chapter
Snapp and Russell identify factors that give rise to and perpetuate discipline disparities towards LGBTQ youth, as well as put forth strategies to reduce them. Challenges include an overly punitive approach to discipline and security in schools; untrained and overextended school staff; explicit and implicit bias towards against LGBTQ students; and a lack of school support for LGBTQ students. The authors suggest non-punitive discipline practices and the creation of safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ students, with properly trained school personnel. Although specific to LGBTQ students, these policies have the potential to improve safety and learning for all students due to their emphasis on inclusion and respect for diversity. These cross-constituency alliances identify, advocate for, and implement school practices and policies that will reduce discipline disparities for all students.
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Blake and colleagues utilize a unique panel dataset of over 900,000 students to test the Cultural Synchrony Hypothesis, which asserts that negative evaluations of Black students are influenced by media-driven stereotypes of Black adults. These stereotypes are thought to subconsciously shape educators’ perceptions of Black students. By examining the degree to which the faculty of a school mirrors the student body’s racial demographics, their analysis shows that the higher the student–teacher racial/ethnic congruence, the lower the risk of encountering school discipline. These findings are particularly robust for females and students of color. Given these results, they suggest a concerted effort to recruit teachers of color. Further, the authors propose professional development targeting cultural competency to prevent teachers from misperceiving the behavior of students of color.