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Exclusionary School Discipline and Delinquent Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis

Abstract

Excluding students from school remains a common form of punishment despite growing critique of the practice. A disparate research base has impeded the ability to make broader assessments on the association between exclusionary discipline (i.e., suspensions and expulsions) and subsequent behavior. This article synthesizes existing empirical evidence (274 effect sizes from 40 primary studies) examining the relationship between exclusionary discipline and delinquent outcomes, including school misconduct/infractions, antisocial behavior, involvement with the justice system, and risky behaviors. This meta-analysis identifies exclusionary discipline as an important and meaningful predictor of increased delinquency. Additional examinations of potential moderators, including race/ethnicity and type of exclusion, revealed no significant differences, suggesting the harm associated with exclusions is consistent across subgroups. These findings indicate exclusionary discipline may inadvertently exacerbate rather than mollify delinquent behaviors.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The authors also thank Robert Marx and Francis Pearman for feedback and suggestions in the early stages of project development

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J.G. participated in the study design, coordination, all stages of data collection and coding, and the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript; S.V. participated in the study design, coordination, all stages of data collection and coding, and the statistical analysis and helped draft the manuscript; J.H.G. participated in the study design, coordination, and all stages of data collection and coding and helped draft the manuscript; B.F. participated in the study design, coordination, and all stages of data collection and coding, helped draft the manuscript, and performed the statistical analysis and interpretation of data; F.C.C. participated in the study design, coordination, and all stages of data collection and coding and helped draft the manuscript; E.H. participated in the initial stages of data collection and coding. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Julie Gerlinger.

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Appendix A. Summary and Select Characteristics of Included Studies

Appendix A. Summary and Select Characteristics of Included Studies

Study Total # effect sizes Direction of effect size Publication type Design Maximum sample size Exclusion type Outcomes measured Age Percent white Percent black Percent male # of controls
Allen and Lo (2012) 12 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 450 Expulsion Gun carrying; Drug dealing; Ever hurt someone; Drug trafficking or gun carrying; Both drug trafficking and gun carrying 16.43–17.09 NA 46–73.4 100 0–6
Amemiya (2019) 12 Mixed Dissertation Longitudinal 729 ISS/OSS Defiant infractions; Minor infractions; Latent class of infractions 13.5 25 75 46.8 0–12
Barnes and Motz (2018) 3 Negative Journal Longitudinal 8710 Suspension/ Expulsion Arrest 15.46 0–100 0–100 45.9 11–12
Campbell (2017) 2 Negative Thesis Cross-sectional 11,617 OSS; Expulsion Delinquency scale 15.5–15.6 60.32–63.51 19.86–22.80 41.71–44.53 0
Christle et al. (2005) 3 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 40 Suspension; Expulsion Law violation rate; # of law violations NA 86.24–89.51 NA 50.43–51.77 0
Costenbader and Markson (1998) 4 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 620 ISS/OSS Involved in legal system (arrested, probation, or parole); Rule compliance/acting out NA 50 23 48 0–4
Cottrell (2017) 30 Negative Dissertation Longitudinal 1960 OSS Non-serious delinquency; Serious delinquency NA 0–100 0–100 NA 6–7
Fabelo et al. (2011) 5 Negative Report Longitudinal 928,940 ISS/OSS/Expulsion Juvenile justice contact NA 43 14 51 0
Forsyth et al. (2014) 6 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 141,713 Suspension/ Expulsion Burglary; Criminal damage to property; Assault/battery; Arson; Rape/sexual battery; Murder NA 32 65 64.4 0
Fortunato et al. (2010) 8 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 638 Suspension Alcohol use; Smoking; Illicit Drug use; Gambling; Smoking NA NA NA NA 0
Ganao et al. (2013) 6 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 3318 Suspension Alcohol use; Delinquency 14.51 0–100 0–100 NA 0–12
Gates (1977) 1 Negative Dissertation Longitudinal 200 OSS Frequency of deviant behavior (number of contacts with law enforcement during the school year) NA NA NA NA 0
Gilbert (2019) 4 Negative Dissertation Longitudinal 10,321 Suspension/ Expulsion Adult criminality 34 67.4 15.3 49.7 0–2
Graham (2016) 8 Negative Dissertation Longitudinal 21,690 OSS Court involvement 18–24 0–100 0–100 57.62 0
Hanson and Voight (2014) 8 Negative Report Cross-sectional 949 Suspension Delinquency; Substance use NA 28–31 6–9 NA 0
Harris (2015) 42 Mixed Dissertation Longitudinal 1,545 Suspension; Expulsion Status offenses; Juvenile court referral; Violent offenses; Juvenile court contact 10.39 0 100 0–100 0–5
Hemphill et al. (2012) 5 Negative Journal Longitudinal 961 Suspension Grade 8/9 antisocial behavior; Non-violent antisocial behavior 31.1 65 4 50 0–3
Hemphill et al. (2013) 1 Negative Journal Longitudinal 1,838 Suspension Non-violent antisocial behavior NA 65 NA 50 12
Jaggers et al. (2016) 3 Negative Journal Longitudinal 507,613 Expulsion Violent crime LADOC contact; Incarceration; LADOC contact 10.02 NA 57.2 51.29 9
Katsiyannis et al. (2013) 2 Negative Journal Longitudinal 12,114 OSS Violent criminal offending 15.41 74 NA 46 12
Lockwood (1995) 3 Negative Dissertation Cross-sectional 54 Suspension Social problems; Delinquent behavior; Aggressive behavior 17.44 44 52 57 0
Loyola (1985) 4 Mixed Dissertation Longitudinal 50 ISS/OSS Frequency of misbehavior; Severity of misbehavior NA 11.8 73.24 64 0
Mittleman (2018) 3 Negative Journal Longitudinal 2,924 OSS/Expulsion Arrest by age 15 15.5 NA 57 51 0–7
Monahan et al. (2014) 1 Negative Journal Longitudinal 1,354 Suspension/ Expulsion Arrest 16 20.2 41.5 86.4 1
Morrow et al. (2019) 1 Negative Journal Longitudinal 292 Suspension Arrest in past year 16 NA NA 64.4 0
Mowen and Brent (2016) 6 Negative Journal Longitudinal 7,397 Suspension Arrest 15.3 55 22.9 48.2 8
Novak (2019) 2 Negative Journal Longitudinal 837 OSS Justice system involvement; Deviant peer association 4–18 26 56 50 12
Pesta (2017) 10 Mixed Dissertation Longitudinal 4,321 OSS/Expulsion Delinquency; Adult crime 21.7–21.9 0–100 0–100 50–52.1 0–12
Poteat et al. (2016) 9 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 13,645 Suspension Juvenile justice system involvement; Alcohol; Marijuana; Weapon carriage onto school property; Truant; Cigarette smoking NA 73.7 5.3 49.8 0–3
Ramey (2016) 8 Negative Journal Longitudinal 3,274 Suspension/Expulsion Involvement with criminal justice system 20.3–21.13 0–100 0–100 NA 0
Ramirez et al. (2012) 15 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 12,402 Suspension Physical violence; Verbal violence; Weapon violence; violence NA NA NA 0–100 6
Rostad et al. (2019) 6 Mixed Journal Cross-sectional 924 Suspension/Expulsion Sexual dating violence; Threatening dating violence; Physical dating violence 15.35–15.48 NA NA 0–100 6
Slaughter et al. (2019) 2 Mixed Journal Longitudinal 308 ISS; OSS Recidivism 14.25 76.9 11.9 86 8
Tyler and Bersani (2008) 1 Negative Journal Longitudinal 1,579 Suspension Number of times ran away from home 15 58 22 51 0
Watts (2018) 5 Negative Journal Longitudinal 10,541 OSS Crime 16.05–16.26 53 19–22 0–100 0–12
Williams (2013) 8 Negative Dissertation Cross-sectional 20 OSS Count of disruptive, aggressive, or violent behaviors 1–3 weeks following discipline and 4–6 weeks following discipline NA 31.8–34.3 NA 24 0
Wilson (2016) 4 Negative Dissertation Cross-sectional 6,504 OSS; Expulsion Nonviolent delinquent behavior; Violent behavior 15.45 66.1 16.1 50.8 0
Wolf and Kupchik (2017) 3 Negative Journal Longitudinal 7,171 Suspension Drug use; crime; Incarceration 14.8 NA 22 48 0–5
Yoder et al. (2003) 6 Negative Journal Cross-sectional 505 Suspension; Expulsion Gang membership; Gang involvement 16.03–16.44 59.26–61.78 22.38–25.12 36.21–47.71 0
  1. ISS in-school suspension, OSS out-of-school suspension. The direction of the effect size indicates the relationship between exclusionary discipline and the outcome. Specifically, “positive” indicates that exclusionary discipline is associated with a better outcome, “negative” indicates exclusionary discipline is associated with a worse outcome, and “mixed” indicates that effect sizes within study are a mix of positive and negatively oriented. “Suspension/Expulsion” indicates studies that used a combined measure, whereas “Suspension; Expulsion” indicates studies that examined both forms of exclusionary discipline separately

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Gerlinger, J., Viano, S., Gardella, J.H. et al. Exclusionary School Discipline and Delinquent Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis. J Youth Adolescence 50, 1493–1509 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-021-01459-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-021-01459-3

Keywords

  • Exclusionary school discipline
  • Delinquency
  • Meta-analysis
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion