This two-phase study examined factors in school-based disciplinary cases that involve suspension from school, an arrest, and a referral to juvenile court.
The study tested the hypothesis that multiple external factors, such as student race and socioeconomic status, influence this process and produce harsher punishments for students in these vulnerable groups. Phase 1 of this study involved interviews with key stakeholders, including school administrators, district administrators, discipline coordinators, juvenile court judges, law enforcement officers, Positive Behavior Intervention Support coordinators, and child welfare agencies. The goal of these interviews was to understand these stakeholders' approaches to behavioral management of school students. Phase 2 involved secondary analysis of data from a local school district and the juvenile court with jurisdiction in two counties. The project applied paired student t-testing and Bonferroni corrections to determine whether there were differences in the demographic characteristics of the school incident sample, the court case sample, and the school student population. The study found a significant difference in the number of disciplined students with low socioeconomic status (SES) and individuals with prior court involvement. There was also a significant difference in the racial composition of the school student population and the race (non-White) of most disciplined and court-involved youth. In drawing conclusions and recommendations from these findings, this report recommends that teachers and administrators seek better ways to manage student behavior, especially non-compliant behavior. The policy of the school district and the state laws state that exclusionary discipline should be used as little as possible unless other corrective action has not been effective with a student. Also, teachers should receive training in the factors that can influence a student's problem behavior and how various types of problem behavior can be managed. 7 tables, 5 figures, and 12 references