Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 3327–3337 | Cite as

The Exclusionary Discipline of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Students with and Without Disabilities: A Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) National Analysis

  • Denise K. WhitfordEmail author
  • Nicholas A. Gage
  • Antonis Katsiyannis
  • Jennifer Counts
  • Luke J. Rapa
  • Anna McWhorter
Invited Paper



The objective of this study was to assess the rates of disciplinary exclusion for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students with and without disabilities, relative to Black, Hispanic/Latino, and White students, using 2015–2016 national level data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).


We utilized quantitative analysis, including rates and weighted risk ratios, to assess disproportionality in disciplinary exclusions in terms of suspensions and expulsions.


AI/AN students were disproportionately represented in exclusionary discipline practices, most substantially in comparison to White students, while AIAN students with disabilities were disproportionally represented in terms of suspension and expulsion risk compared to both Hispanic/Latino and White students, but not compared to Black students. The risk for AI/AN students, with and without disabilities, was highest for expulsion, the most extreme form of disciplinary exclusion.


AI/AN students with and without disabilities remain overrepresented in exclusionary discipline. The Largest disproportionality was evident comparing AI/AN students and White students, with AI/AN students nearly nine times more likely to receive an in-school suspension, more than 10 times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension, nearly 16 times more likely to receive more than one out-of-school suspension, and more than 30 times more likely to be expelled. Implications and recommendations to address issues related to this overrepresentation in disciplinary exclusion are provided.


American Indian/Alaska Native Special education Discipline Suspension Exclusion 


Author Contributions

D.K.W. co-designed the study, cleaned and coded the data for analysis, and collaborated with the writing and editing of the final manuscript. N.A.G. co-designed the study, ran data analyses, and collaborated with the writing and editing of the final manuscript. A.K.: co-designed the study and collaborated with the writing and editing of the manuscript. J.C., L.J.R. and A.M. collaborated with the writing of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

For this type of study formal consent is not required. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was not obtained, because there were no individual participants included in the study.


  1. Anyon, Y., Gregory, A., Stone, S., Farrar, J., Jenson, J. M., McQueen, J., & Simmons, J. (2016). Restorative interventions and school discipline sanctions in a large urban school district. American Educational Research Journal, 53(6), 1663–1697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anyon, Y., Jenson, J. M., Atschul, I., Farrar, J., McQueen, J., Eldridge, G., & Simmons, J. (2014). The persistent effect of race and the promise of alternatives to suspension in school discipline outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 44, 379–386. Scholar
  3. Aud, S., Fox, M. A., & KewalRamani, A. (2010). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic groups (NCES 2010-015). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  4. Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2015). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using Eigen and S4. R package version 1.1–8.
  5. Borenstein, M., Hedges, L. V., Higgins, J. P., & Rothstein, H. R. (2011). Introduction to meta-analysis. John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, C. A., & DiTillio, C. (2013). Discipline disproportionality among Hispanic and American Indian students: expanding the discourse in U.S. research. Journal of Education and Learning, 2(4), 47–59.Google Scholar
  7. Castagno, A. E., & Brayboy, B. M. J. (2008). Culturally responsive schooling for indigenous youth: a review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 941–993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Children’s Defense Fund. (1975). School suspensions: are they helping children? Cambridge, MA: Washington Research Project.Google Scholar
  9. CHiXapkaid Pavel, M., Banks‐Joseph, S. R., Inglebret, E., McCubbin, L., Sievers, J., Sanyal, N. (2008). From where the sun rises: addressing the educational achievement of American Indians in Washington State. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Clearinghouse on Native Teaching and Learning.Google Scholar
  10. DeVoe, J. F., & Darling-Churchill, K. E. (2008). Status and trends in the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008 (NCES 2008-084). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
  11. Fabelo, T., Thompson, M. D., Plotkin, M., Carmichael, D., Marchbanks, M. P., & Booth, E. A. (2011). Breaking schools’ rules: a statewide study of how school discipline relates to students’ success and juvenile justice involvement. New York, NY: Council of State Governments Justice Center.
  12. Faircloth, S. C., & Tippeconnic, J. W. (2010). The dropout/graduation rate crisis among American Indian and Alaska native students: Failure to respond places the future of native peoples at risk. Los Angeles, CA: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA.
  13. Gregory, A., Skiba, R. J., & Noguera, P. A. (2010). The achievement gap and the discipline gap: two sides of the same coin. Educational Researcher, 39(1), 59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jones, C., Caravaca, L., Cizek, S., Horner, R. H., & Vincent, C. G. (2006). Culturally responsive schoolwide positive behavior support: a case study in one school with a high proportion of American Indian students. Multiple Voices, 9(1), 108–119.Google Scholar
  15. McCarty, T. L., & Lee, T. S. (2014). Critical culturally sustaining/revitalizing pedagogy and indigenous education sovereignty. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 101–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McFarland, J., Hussar, B., de Brey, C., Snyder, T., Wang, X., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Hinz, S. (2017). The Condition of Education 2017 (NCES 2017-144). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
  17. Musu-Gillette, L., de Brey, C., McFarland, J., Hussar, W., Sonnenberg, W., & Wilkinson-Flicker, S. (2017). Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2017 (2017-051). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics. Washington, D.C. Accessed 15 Apr 2017.
  18. National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. (2018a). Digest of education statistics: 2016.
  19. National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. (2018b). Trends in high school dropout and completion rates in United States: 2018.
  20. Ninneman, A. M., Deaton, J., & Francis-Begay, K. (2017). National Indian Education Study 2015 (NCES 2017-161). Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  21. Pewewardy, C., & Fitzpatrick, M. (2009). Working with American Indian students and families: disabilities, issues, and interventions. Intervention in School and Clinic, 45(2), 91–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Putnam, R. F., Horner, R. H., & Algozzine, R. (2017). Academic achievement and the implementation of school-wide behavior support. OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.
  23. R Core Team. (2014). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  24. Skiba, R., & Peterson, R. (2000). School discipline at a crossroads: from zero tolerance to early response. Exceptional Children, 66, 335–346.Google Scholar
  25. Skiba, R. J., Horner, R. H., Chung, C.-G., Rausch, M. K., May, S. L., & Tobin, T. (2011). Race is not neutral: a national investigation of African American and Latino disproportionality in school discipline. School Psychology Review, 40(1), 85–107.Google Scholar
  26. Sprague, J., Vincent, C., Tobin, T., & CHiXapkaid Pavel, M. (2013). Preventing disciplinary exclusions of students from American Indian/Alaska Native backgrounds. Family Court Review, 51(3), 452–459. Scholar
  27. Sugai, G., Horner, R. H., Dunlap, G., Hieneman, M., Lewis, T., Nelson, C. M., & Ruef, M. (2000). Applying positive behavior support and functional behavioral assessment in schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 2(3), 131–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sullivan, A., Van Norman, E., & Klingbeil, D. (2014). Exclusionary discipline of students with disabilities: student and school characteristics predicting suspension. Remedial and Special Education, 35(4), 199–210. Scholar
  29. Toney, J. (2007). Minnesota legislative report card on racial equity. Minneapolis, MN: Organizing Apprenticeship Project. Accessed 28 Apr 2018.
  30. United States Census Bureau. (2017). American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month: November 2017.
  31. United States Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP]. (2017). About the nation’s report card.
  32. United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights [USDOE]. (2018). Data and research: Civil rights data collection (CRDC).
  33. United States Government Accountability Office [USGAO]. (2018). Discipline disparities for Black students, boys, and students with disabilities (GAO-18-258). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accountability Office.
  34. United States Department of Education [USDOE]. (2016a). Fact sheet: equity in IDEA.
  35. United States Department of Education [USDOE]. (2016b). Dear colleague letter: preventing racial discrimination in special education.
  36. Utley, C. A., Kozleski, E., Smith, A., & Draper, I. L. (2002). Positive behavior support: a proactive strategy for minimizing behavior problems in urban multicultural youth. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 4(4), 196–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Viechtbauer, W. (2010). Conducting meta-analyses in R with the metafor package. Journal of Statistical Software, 36(3), 1−48.
  38. Vincent, C., Sprague, J., & Tobin, T. (2012). Exclusionary discipline practices across students’ racial/ethnic backgrounds and disability status: findings from the Pacific Northwest. Education and Treatment of Children, 35(4), 585–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whitford, D. K. (2017). School discipline disproportionality: American Indian students in special education. Urban Review, 49, 693–706. Scholar
  40. Whitford, D. K., Katsiyannis, A., & Counts, J. (2016). Discriminatory discipline: trends and issues. NASSP Bulletin, 100, 117–135. Scholar
  41. Whitford, D. K., & Levine-Donnerstein, D. (2014). Office disciplinary referral patterns of American Indian students from elementary school through high school. Behavioral Disorders, 29(2), 78–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Williams, J., Pazey, B., Fall, A., Yates, J., & Roberts, G. (2015). Avoiding the threat: an exploratory study into a theoretical understanding of the de facto segregation of students with disabilities. NASSP Bulletin, 99(3), 233–253. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue University, Department of Educational Studies, Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.University of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Clemson UniversityClemsonUSA

Personalised recommendations