Methods: Data sources include survey of secondary school students (n=29,148) linked to administrative data (n=107 schools) from a large urban district. The racial composition of participants was 2% Native American, 5% Asian or Pacific Islander, 12% Black, 51% Latino, 19% White, and 11% Multiracial. Multilevel modeling was used to estimate the relationships between school-level rates of suspension for Black students and six measures of school connectedness.
Results: Controlling for race, gender, grade level, school racial composition, and the school’s overall suspension rate, analyses revealed that the suspension rate for Black youth was significantly and negatively associated with five measures of connectedness for all students: perceptions of teachers’ care (OR=.20, p<.001) and encouragement (OR=.14, p<.01); respectful treatment by school adults (OR=.12, p<.01); the availability of school adults with whom students feel comfortable discussing safety concerns (OR =.36, p<.05); and a school climate that teaches respect for people of all backgrounds (OR=.12, p<.01).
Conclusion: Study results broaden our understanding of the possible deleterious impacts of discipline disparities. Findings suggest that all youth, not just students of color, may be harmed by racial discipline gaps. Preventive interventions that reduce discipline disproportionalities may also improve all students’ school connectedness, thereby lowering their risk for negative developmental outcomes.