Panel: Inequities in Student Discipline: Examining the Sources and Assessing Possible Solutions

Saturday, November 10, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
McKinley - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Jonathan N. Mills, University of Arkansas
Discussants:  Constance Lindsay, Urban Institute and Andrew McEachin, RAND Corporation

Race and Discipline in the Principal’s Office: How Student-Administrator Race Match Contributes to Suspension Disparities
Nathan Barrett, Tulane University, Andrew McEachin, RAND Corporation, Jonathan N. Mills, University of Arkansas and Jon Valant, Brookings Institution

Exclusionary discipline such as suspensions and expulsions are correlated with poor academic outcomes, higher risk of dropout, and involvement in the criminal justice system. Further, disparities in exclusionary discipline by race, gender, or disability status are well documented. In 2013-14, for example, black students made up 15.5% of the student population, but 39% of those suspended. While these disparities are staggering, there is less known about how these gaps vary across contexts or how to solve this problem. This panel includes four methodologically rigorous papers that 1) examine the correlates of and sources of variation in disciplinary gaps across the country, 2) assess the relationship between teacher- and principal- characteristics and student disciplinary outcomes, and 3) assess the potential of capacity building for one alternative approach – restorative justice (RJ) – to address these issues.

The first paper uses national district-level data to examine the correlates of disciplinary gaps including racial achievement gaps, economic, demographic, segregation, and school district characteristics. This study finds that disciplinary gaps vary substantially across districts, and that observable characteristics of districts explain relatively little (about one-fifth to one-third) of the racial gaps. This work is a critical step forward in better understanding racial disciplinary gaps and the relationship to other forms of inequality in the U.S.

The next two papers also addresses racial gaps, but seek to understand if there are moderating factors – in the form of school staff - that might alleviate these gaps. The second paper explores the relationship between the student-administrator race congruence and how students are punished. Using student- and infraction- level data from Louisiana for 2000-01 through 2013-14, they assess whether students’ punishments vary by the racial composition of their administrative staff. Their analysis includes a novel approach that identifies differences in outcomes following interracial fights.

Similarly, the third paper uses student- and infraction-level data from Michigan to assess whether teacher or principal characteristics such as race - and particularly the congruence between those characteristics and the student’s – influence discipline outcomes. This paper exploits within-student variation over time to estimate impacts on a student’s likelihood of disciplinary referrals for various types of infractions and his likelihood of exclusionary discipline conditional on referral for a given infraction.

The final set of authors study the effectiveness of one often-discussed, but under-studied alternative to exclusionary discipline: restorative justice (RJ). Leveraging longitudinal data from 2011-12 to 2016-17 in a Comparative Interrupted Time Series (CITS) framework, they estimate the effects of RJ training in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on school climate, and other behavioral and academic outcomes across multiple tiers of training and multiple cohorts of schools.

These four papers, each tackling the same equity issue from a slightly different perspective, provide insight to practitioners and policy makers about the sources of and potential solutions to inequities with respect to student discipline. As a consequence, this body of work has direct implications for the development of effective reforms in this area.

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