Beyond Black and White

AuthorMark Alden Morgan,John Paul Wright
Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Beyond Black and White:
Suspension Disparities for
Hispanic, Asian, and
White Youth
Mark Alden Morgan
and John Paul Wright
Studies have consistently found a significant gap between Black and White students in various forms of
school discipline. Few studies, however, have examined disciplinary differences between other racial and
ethnic groups. Focusing on out-of-school suspensions, a punishment closely linked to the “school-to-
prison pipeline,” we investigate the disparities betweenHispanic,Asian,andWhiteyouth.Datafromthe
Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class are used to control for contemporary socio-
economic variables, the context of the school environment, and the parent-reported behavior of the
student. Through a series of logistic regression models, we found that White students were significantly
more likely to be suspended than were Hispanics or Asians. However, while the disparity between His-
panics and Whites was eliminated after controlling for student misbehavior, the gap persisted between
Asians and Whites. These results question the contention that systemic racial discrimination is a leading
contributor to group differences in school discipline. Moreover, we add to a limited but growing literature
showing Asian students are significantly less likely to experience school punishments including suspension.
suspension, school discipline, exclusionary discipline, racial disparity, school-to-prison pipeline
Concern over racial disparities in school discipline within the United States has been a long-
standing issue, spanning over four decades of research (Children’s Defense Fun d, 1975; Rocque
& Paternoster, 2011; Wu, Pink, Crain, & Moles, 1982). According to reports by the U.S. Depart-
ment of Education, the percentage of children suspended differs substantially across racial and
ethnic groups (KewalRamani, Gilbertson, Fox, & Provasnik, 2007). For example, in a nationwide
survey from 2007, parents of children in the 6th to 12th grades were asked whether their child had
ever received a suspension, whether in school or out of school. Approximately 43%of Blacks,
School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Center for Social and Humanities Research, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Corresponding Author:
Mark Alden Morgan, School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, ML 210389, 660 Teacher-Dyer Hall, Clifton Avenue,
Cincinnati, OH 45221, USA.
Criminal Justice Review
2018, Vol. 43(4) 377-398
ª2017 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016817721293
22%of Hispanics, 16%of Whites, and 11%of Asians had been suspended (Aud, Fox, &
KewalRamani, 2010). Most research efforts, however, have focused on the disparity between
Black and White youth. These studies converge to find that Black students are 2 to 3 times more
likely than their White peers to be suspended (Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2000).
Although studies have also investigated office referrals, expulsions, and even corporal punish-
ment (J. F. Gregory, 1995; Rocque, 2010), the emphasis placed on suspensions has been regarded
as especially important. Suspensions occur with greater relative frequency, are sometimes asso-
ciated with zero-tolerance policies, and are an integral part of the alleged “school-to-prison
pipeline” (Wald & Losen, 2003).
Consequently, the school-to-prison pipeline has become an organizing framework from which
disciplinary differentials are understood. While no single definition of the pipeline exists, several
recurrent themes have begun to develop in the literature (Skiba, Arredondo, & Williams, 2014).
According to this line of research, students are often met with the widespread and systematic use
of exclusionary school discipline (e.g., suspension and expulsion) as punishment for school
infractions which removes them from the classroom environment or involves them with the
juvenile justice system (Gordon, Della Piana, & Keleher, 2000; Krezmien, Leone, & Wilson,
2014). Direct contact with the court system may result from the commission of serious crimes
but can also be influenced by the increasing presence of school resource officers and their ability
to arrest students for a wide range of minor offenses (Wolf, 2014). Furthermore, it has been
demonstrated that the school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately involves students of color and
that school officials may treat the misbehaviors of Black and other minority students more harshly,
in part, because they hold negative stereotypes of non-White youth (James, 2012; Lewis, Butler,
Bonner, & Joubert, 2010; Rudd, 2014; Skiba et al., 2011). Critical theorists have also argued that
the pipeline is simply an extension of the “prison–industrial complex” intended to empower
Whites while disenfranchising people of color (Fasching-Varner, Mitchell, Martin, & Bennett-
Haron, 2014; McGrew, 2016). However, once marginalized, the long-term repercussions for
students on the pipeline path are grim, resulting in, “a host of negative developmental conse-
quences, including diminished academic success and disengagement from school” (Rocque &
Paternoster, 2011, p. 637). Adjudicated youth, upon being released from juvenile placement, will
yet again face serious procedural obstacles that can stifle their ability to reintegrate into school,
inevitably leading to dropout (Feierman, Levick, & Mody, 2009).
Beyond this, at-risk youth disconnected from the school environment may turn to crime and
delinquency, funneling them down the “prison track” where they serve to reinforce negative racial
stereotypes in society (Payne & Welch, 2010; Wald & Losen, 2003). Indeed, racial disproportion in
suspensions has been linked to racial disproportion in juvenile court referrals, and exclusionary
discipline itself has been associated with higher incidences of arrest even for youth without a history
of behavioral problems (Monahan, VanDerhei, Bechtold, & Cauffman, 2014; Nicholson-Crotty,
Birchmeier, & Valentine, 2009). Recent longitudinal studies have also found that suspended stu-
dents are significantly more likely to engage in illegal activity during adulthood, including serious
violent crime, to experience criminal victimization and to be incarcerated (Katsiyannis, Thompson,
Barrett, & Kingree, 2012; Wolf & Kupchik, 2016). Noting these statistical associations, the U.S.
Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued a joint declaration to examine school
disciplinary practices, to ensure compliance with civil rights legislation, and to promote a climate for
safe learning (Holder & Duncan, 2011).
Explanations for the School Discipline Gap
Factors to account for the school discipline gap have generally focused on three major areas of
inquiry: (1) the socioeconomic status of the student or their school; (2) the context of the school
378 Criminal Justice Review 43(4)

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