African American and multiracial students are disciplined at higher rates than white
students, researchers found.
Their new study expands on previous research on discipline in schools by using a nationwide
data set, looking at multiple racial groups and drilling down into school and geographical
The data on more than 22 million middle and high school students comes from the U.S.
Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection and includes in-school suspensions,
out-of-school suspensions and expulsions with and without services.
Analysis showed African American students and multiracial students were at greater
risk for disciplinary measures than white students across all measures and both age
groups. For example, African American students were expelled at nine times the rate
of white students in high school and five times more than white students in middle
school. In low-income areas and more diverse schools, these two groups were even more
likely to be disciplined.
American Indian and Hispanic students also had higher rates of discipline than white
students in several categories. The lowest rates were among Asian students, who were
less likely than white students to be disciplined across all types. Hawaiian/Pacific
Islander students also had lower rates of discipline than white students in multiple
Overall disciplinary rates for rural and urban schools weren’t significantly different.
Authors said they were surprised to find suburban schools had higher rates of all
four types of discipline in high schools compared to urban schools. Results also showed
Midwest schools had higher rates of most disciplinary measures than Southern schools.
Schools with higher rates of discipline also tended to have higher rates of racial
disparities in punishment.
Authors said school discipline policies can impact the school climate and have long-term
effects on students’ achievement.
“Given that adolescence is the developmental period associated with the highest rate
of delinquent behaviors, it 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,” lead author Albert J. Ksinan, Ph.D., M.S., said in a news release.