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Student Attitudes and Behaviors as Explanations for the Black-White Suspension Gap

NCJ Number
Children and Youth Services Review Volume: 73 Dated: February 2017 Pages: 298-308
Frances L. Huang; Dewey G. Cornell
Date Published
February 2017
11 pages
This study tested the differential- involvement hypothesis, which suggests that disproportionate school-suspension sanctioning may be a function of racial differences in student misbehavior or characteristics that predispose them to misbehavior.
Self-report surveys were administered to a statewide sample of 38,398 students attending 236 racially diverse high schools. Suspension data, risk behaviors, and aggressive attitudes from self-report surveys were collected from a statewide sample of 38,398 students attending 236 racially diverse high schools. A series of school fixed-effect logistic and linear regression models were used to test behavioral and attitudinal forms of the differential involvement hypothesis. Overall, the findings do not support the differential-involvement hypothesis; and although they do not establish the presence of bias, they strengthen concern that racial disparities are likely the result of differential decisions by school authorities. Racial differences in self-reported suspensions could not be explained by different behavioral reasons for suspension (such as fighting, threatening others, and substance possession), by involvement in high risk behaviors of fighting, bullying, carrying a weapon, consuming alcohol, or using marijuana, or by aggressive attitudes that lead to hostile behavior. (Publisher abstract modified)