Nationwide Study Finds Major Racial Gap in School Suspensions and Expulsions

Previous studies have shown that in certain school districts and states, African American students are more likely to be disciplined in school than Whites. And the punishments received by African American student are often more severe than the punishment White students receive for similar offense.

But a new study conducted at the University of Kentucky and led by Albert Ksinan, now a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, offers a comprehensive look at racial disparities in school discipline involving expulsion or suspension from school at secondary educational institutions throughout the United States. The study examined disciplinary records involving nearly 16,000 middle schools and more than 18,000 high schools all across the country. These schools enroll more than 22 million students.

“The results showed robust evidence of persistent discrepancies in disciplinary practices across ethnic/racial groups, with African American students found to be at increased risk for being suspended/expelled compared to White students in both middle and high schools,” said Dr. Ksinan.

“Exclusionary discipline can be particularly harmful during adolescence, because in many cases, it leaves adolescents without any real possibility to finish high school,” said Dr. Ksinan. “Given that adolescence is the developmental period associated with the highest rate of delinquent behaviors, it is can be argued that school expulsion during this ‘window of vulnerability’ leads to an increased risk of engaging in substance abuse and violent crime, and an associated increased likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system.”

The full study, “National Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Disciplinary Practices: A Contextual Analysis in American Secondary Schools,” was published in the Journal of School Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Related: University of Kentucky • Virginia Commonwealth University

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