Discipline Disproportionalities in Schools: The Relationship between Student Characteristics and School Disciplinary Outcomes

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school discipline, schooling outcomes, racial inequality, exclusionary discipline


According to a 2014 report from the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, black students represent only 15% of students across the nation, but 35% of students suspended once are black, 44% of students suspended more than once are black, and 36% of expelled students are black. These disparate disciplinary aggregate outcomes, while troubling, do not provide as much information as policymakers need. In this study, we exploit three years of student-level discipline data from Arkansas to assess the extent to which black students or other minority students were more likely to receive certain types of punishments, even for the same infraction. In previous studies utilizing the same dataset, we find that, consistent with the recent reports on this topic, black students were punished more frequently; furthermore, we find that black students received slightly longer punishments than their white peers in the same school. The current study utilizes multinomial logit to assess the extent to which student demographics predict consequence type, even after controlling for infraction-level information and district characteristics. Black students, males, and low-income students (eligible for free- and reduced- lunch) were more likely to receive certain types of exclusionary consequences such as out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and referrals to Alternative Learning Environments relative to in-school-suspension.


EDRE Working Paper 2015-08