What are the Sources of School Discipline Disparities by Student Race and Family Income?

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In the United States, low-income students and students of color are suspended and expelled from school at much higher rates than their peers. These disparities are concerning both because of what causes the disparities (e.g., various types of discrimination) and because exclusionary discipline practices are at least correlated with numerous negative outcomes for students. In this study, we examine differences in suspension rates and durations by race and family income in the state of Louisiana. Our key findings are:

Black students are about twice as likely as white students to be suspended, and low-income students are about 1.75 times as likely as non-low-income students to be suspended. Discipline disparities are large for both violent and nonviolent infractions.
Disparities in suspension rates are evident within schools (black and low-income students are suspended at higher rates than their same-school peers) and across schools (black and low-income students disproportionately attend schools with high suspension rates). While across-district differences account for a small portion of the disparities, within-school and across-school differences each account for a sizable share of the disparities.


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