Where Should We Intervene? Contributions of Behavior, Student, and School Characteristics to Suspension and Expulsion
Editor's Note: This research is part of the “Closing the School Discipline Gap Conference” of January 2013. An overview of the research project can be found here; for a list of the sixteen studies presented, click here.
It has been widely documented that the characteristics of behavior, students, and schools all make a contribution to school discipline outcomes. The purpose of this study is to report on a multilevel examination of variables at these three levels to identify the relative contributions of type of behavior, student demographic variables, and school characteristics to rates of and racial disparities in out-of-school suspension and expulsion. Results indicated that variables at all three levels made a contribution to the odds of being suspended or expelled. Type of behavior and previous incidents at the behavioral level; race, gender and to a certain extent SES at the individual level; and percent Black enrollment, school achievement levels, and principal perspectives on discipline at the school level all made a contribution to the probability of out-of- school suspension or expulsion. For racial disparities in discipline, however, school level variables, including principal perspective on discipline, appear to be stronger predictors of disproportionality in suspension and expulsion than either behavioral or individual characteristics. These results indicate that school suspension and expulsion are not simply an inevitable result of student misbehavior, but are rather determined by a complex set of factors, including irrelevant factors such as race, and the school principal’s belief in the necessity of suspension and expulsion. For racial disparities in particular, these results suggest that a focus, in policy and practice, on changing characteristics of the way schools carry out discipline may be the course most likely to reduce inequity in school suspension and expulsion.
In compliance with the UC Open Access Policy, this report has been made available on eScholarship: