Black girls and the discipline gap: Exploring the early stages of the school-to-prison pipeline

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Angton, Alexia
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DeLisi, Matthew
Behnken, Monic
Burgason, Kyle
Jones Johnson, Gloria
Sheth, Manali J.
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For nearly four decades, research has explored racial disparities in school discipline, revealing consistent discrepancies in the discipline of Black students compared to white students and other students of color. In these explorations, Black boys have taken precedent as being most susceptible to this discipline gap and deemed most as risk for future involvement in the school-to-prison pipeline. As a result, until recently, the discipline experiences of Black girls had largely been overlooked. More recent literature suggests that there are important disparities in school discipline along race, gender, and class lines. However, less is known about how Black girls experience exclusionary discipline specifically. This dissertation fills this gap in the literature by utilizing a critical quantitative methodology to study differences in suspension odds and rates of 8th grade female students. Utilizing secondary data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), logistic and negative binomial regression analyses were conducted to assess differences in the suspension of Black, Latina, and white girls. Testing a number of demographics, behavioral, school bonding, and school-context factors, this study examines predictors that contribute to discrepancies in school suspension and highlight potential protective factors that may alleviate these disparities. Centering Black girls and utilizing critical race feminist and social bonding lenses, this study advances intersectional scholarship that provides more nuanced understandings of the discipline gap. Results of the study yield some important findings: (1) Black girls are significantly more likely to be suspended and at higher rates than their peers when demographic and school context factors are considered; (2) Black girls’ suspension was most impacted by individual factors that were not consistent across models; (3) for Latina girls, suspension was most strongly associated with school-context factors; (4) white girls’ suspension was associated with a number of individual, behavioral, and school-context factors; and (5) school bonding may provide some protective effects for Black girls as it lessened the significance of race and “problem behavior” on suspension. These findings provide valuable insights for future research on the discipline gap and can help inform more inclusive and equitable learning spaces and disciplinary practices in schools for Black girls.
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