Understanding racial-ethnic disparities in internal school suspension and identifying compensatory and protective factors

Jung, Soyon
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This study has four objectives. The first objective is to determine the race-ethnicity effects on internal school suspension. The second objective aims to examine the reasons for racial-ethnic disparities in internal school suspension. Specifically, this objective intends to test directly or indirectly the plausibility of four potential explanations - individual factor explanation, family factor explanation, school factor explanation, and differential treatment explanation. The third objective attempts to identify compensatory and protective factors for school misconduct, the major reason for school discipline including school suspension. The final objective aims to identify compensatory and protective factors for internal school suspension after adjusting for school misconduct. The data for the current study was drawn from the base year dataset of Education Longitudinal Study of 2002. The primary study subjects are 8,716 high school sophomores composed of Whites (71%), Blacks (13%), and Hispanics (15%). Multilevel logistic regression revealed that Black students were approximately 3 times more likely and Hispanic students were 2 times more likely to receive an internal school suspension compared to White students, after adjusting for gender. The significant effect of being Hispanic on internal school suspension disappeared when individual and family factors were taken into account, supporting the plausibility of individual and family factor explanations. In contrast, the significant effect of being Black was sustained even after controlling for individual, family, and school factors although the magnitude of the effect decreased. Thus, the differential treatment at school needs to be considered an important factor when Black students’ vulnerability to internal school suspension is examined. Furthemore, this study identified several compensatory and protective factors for school misconduct as well as internal school suspension. It is particularly noteworthy that academic achievement, parent involvement in school, and academic climate at school were found to have protective effects for Black students’ misconduct, and that extracurricular activities and parent involvement in school were found to have protective effects for Hispanic students’ misconduct. No factor, however, had protective effects for racial-ethnic minority students with regard to internal school suspension, indicating the advantaged status of White students in school.