Examining racial/ethnic disparities in school discipline in the context of student-reported behavior infractions

Kate M. Wegmann, Brittanni Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although traditional methodologies of measuring racial/ethnic disparities in the use of exclusionary discipline have provided overwhelming evidence that students of color are far more likely than White students to experience exclusionary punishment, studies using these methods have been criticized for not accounting for students' general patterns of behavior, and also for not examining the extent to which students disproportionately receive non-exclusionary consequences (e.g., warnings). The current study examined both exclusionary and non-exclusionary forms of discipline for disproportionality, using a traditional percentage method as well as binary logistic regression to estimate the impact of students' self-reported number, frequency, and engagement in particular behavior infractions on the odds that students would also report one or more suspensions, office referrals, personal warnings from a teacher, or warnings about their behavior sent home. Engagement in particular behaviors had differential impact for African American vs. White students on the odds of receiving behavioral warnings, with African American students being less likely to be warned than their White peers. The current study demonstrates both the presence of disproportionality in non-exclusionary discipline as well as evidence that African American students experience escalated consequences (e.g., lower likelihood of receiving a warning)for infractions when they also engage in certain behaviors, even if those behaviors are not the direct cause for discipline. By maintaining differential consequences for behavior infractions committed by African American students vs. White students, schools can mirror racialized differences in policing and the criminal justice system, and through their role as agents of socialization, normalize such unequal systems for youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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