From the School Yard to the Squad Car: School Discipline, Truancy, and Arrest
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- Monahan, K.C., VanDerhei, S., Bechtold, J. et al. J Youth Adolescence (2014) 43: 1110. doi:10.1007/s10964-014-0103-1
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Since the 1990’s, implementation of zero tolerance policies in schools has led to increased use of school suspension and expulsion as disciplinary techniques for students with varying degrees of infractions. An unintended consequence of zero tolerance policies is that school suspension or expulsion may increase risk for contact with the juvenile justice system. In the present study, we test how forced absence from school via suspension or expulsion and chosen absence from school (truancy) are associated with the likelihood of being arrested. Using month-level data from 6,636 months from a longitudinal study of delinquent adolescents (N = 1,354; 13.5 % female; 41.5 % Black, 33.5 % Hispanic-American, 20.2 % White), we compare the likelihood of being arrested, within individuals, for months when youth were and were not suspended or expelled from school and for months when youth were and were not truant. Finally, we test if these associations were moderated by stable demographic characteristics (sex, race, age, history of problem behaviors) and time-varying contextual factors (peer delinquency, parental monitoring, and commitment to school). Being suspended or expelled from school increased the likelihood of arrest in that same month and this effect was stronger among youth who did not have a history of behavior problems and when youth associated with less delinquent peers. Truancy independently contributed to the likelihood of arrest, but this association was explained by differences in parental monitoring and school commitment. Thus, school disciplinary action places youth at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system and this may be especially true for less risky youth.