School suspensions related to increases in subsequent offending

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About 3.5 million students are suspended each year, and school punishment has been tied to a variety of negative outcomes. A new study took a longitudinal look at how school suspensions are related to offending behaviors that include assault, stealing, and selling drugs. It found that rather than decreasing subsequent offending, school suspensions increase this behavior.

The study, by researchers at Bowling Green State University and Eastern Kentucky University, is published in Justice Quarterly, a publication of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

"Our findings suggest that suspending students from can serve as a negative and harmful turning point in adolescence that increases offending over time," according to Thomas James Mowen, assistant professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University, who led the study. "Intensifying disciplinary strategies—what some have called the criminalization of school discipline—may do more harm than good and could result in more crime in schools, neighborhoods, and communities."

Mowen and his colleagues studied to what extent being suspended from middle and was a turning point that led to more deviant behavior. They also examined whether school suspensions, the most common response to 's misbehavior at school, amplified the likelihood that adolescents would offend as they grew into young adults. Offending was defined as attacking or assaulting someone, possessing a gun, selling illegal substances, destroying property, and stealing.

The study used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) to examine the role, cumulative effect, and impact of school suspensions on subsequent offending. The NLSY97 included 8,984 youth from a variety of racial and from all 50 states who were between 12 and 18 years at the start of the study. Information about the participants was collected annually; this study focused on the first four years of data because after four years, most of the participants had aged out of school.

Participants were asked if they had been suspended from school as well as how many times they had engaged in offending behavior. Researchers then measured the effect of school suspensions on subsequent offending.

Overall, respondents reported they had been suspended 12.3% of the time, with students who were suspended once likely to report being suspended again. The study also found that exclusionary school discipline (i.e., suspensions) increased subsequent offending, substantially amplifying deviant behavior as the youth moved through adolescence and into adulthood. And repeated suspensions further amplified subsequent offending.

Perhaps most importantly, the study found that suspensions increased offending behaviors over time, even after accounting for prior levels of offending. This means that even among youth who reported offending behaviors prior to being suspended, exclusionary school discipline still contributed to significant increases in offending over time.

The study also found that White youth reported higher levels of offending than Black and Hispanic youth. Because Black and Hispanic youth are far more likely to be suspended than White youth, the researchers suggest that the effects of punitive school discipline may exacerbate differences in offending across racial and ethnic groups over time.

The researchers took into account a variety of factors that influence offending behavior, including whether youth dropped out of school, how youth felt about their schools (e.g., whether they felt safe, thought their teachers were interested in them, believed school discipline was fair), how they felt about their families, and their families' income. The study also considered youth's relationships with their peers (including whether they were members of a gang) and their gender, race, and ethnicity. And it took into account prior levels of offending.

"American schools are relying increasingly on exclusionary sanctions and zero-tolerance policies to maintain control and safety," notes Mowen. "Our findings point to the need for school officials and policymakers to recognize the negative consequences of these approaches, examine the underlying causes of students' , and change how we manage that misbehavior."

The authors note that their study is limited because, as a household-based survey, it did not examine specific characteristics of schools. In addition, the study's reliance on self-reported information (from the students) may limit the accuracy of the data due to respondents' ability to recall past events, desire to provide socially acceptable answers, and other biases. Finally, because school discipline has intensified since the data were collected, the authors posit that their findings may underestimate the effect of suspensions on subsequent offending.


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More information: The Effect of School Discipline on Offending Across Time , Justice Quarterly (2019). DOI: 10.1080/07418825.2019.1625428
Journal information: Justice Quarterly

Provided by Crime and Justice Research Alliance
Citation: School suspensions related to increases in subsequent offending (2019, July 12) retrieved 23 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-school-suspensions-subsequent.html
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Jul 12, 2019
Correlation is not causation. From the news release "Perhaps most importantly, the study found that suspensions increased offending behaviors over time, even after accounting for prior levels of offending." No evidence was offered for this conclusion. It just appears out of the blue. Alternative hypotheses are ignored, such as: It is just as likely that children who are out of control get suspended and go on to further bad behavior-.

Jul 12, 2019
@Jim4321: " No evidence was offered for this conclusion. It just appears out of the blue."

This article isn't the paper. Just out of curiosity, did you read the paper? (I haven't; not my cup of tea, so to speak.) Perhaps the "evidence" you seek is there.

phys.org articles are often, if not almost always, simple summaries of academic papers written by someone who may not have a background in the subject being reported upon. The articles don't reproduce the paper in toto.

Jul 12, 2019
One has to wonder why disciplinary methods from the 1940s are still being used today when they obviously don't work.

BTW, @Jim, it's on you to show that suspensions reduce such behavior. Otherwise, why do them? Can we find something more effective?

Just askin'.

Jul 12, 2019
" It found that rather than decreasing subsequent offending, school suspensions increase this "

Again, this is just more progressive B.S.!!!! They want to free the jails and say the crime is the fault of an unjust society and not the individual.

Meanwhile our major US cities are war zones due to drugs and moral decay. Public schools in most major cities are a joke causing people to send their children to private schools or move to the safer suburbs.

Jul 12, 2019
"BTW, @Jim, it's on you to show that suspensions reduce such behavior. Otherwise, why do them? "

Yet another example of liberal stupidity. You want a reason Da, I will give you a reason. How about the fact that you need to protect the other children in the school from these cretins.

Back when I was a child they would send all of the troublemakers to one school so that they could "enjoy" each others company. That was a huge deterrent to others and kept the marginal kids in line.

Jul 12, 2019
@MR166:
"" It found that rather than decreasing subsequent offending, school suspensions increase this ""

Note the "It is found ....", which clearly implies facts/evidence to support the conclusion that follows. Again, I haven't read the paper, so I can't evaluate the strength of the statement.

"Again, this is just more progressive B.S.!!!!"
Uh, no facts or implication of any knowledge of any facts. Just an expression of an ideology. Something like a Trump statement on nearly anything.

"Meanwhile our major US cities are war zones due to drugs and moral decay." Actually, all statistics show a continuing decrease in nearly all crime for several decades. Google/DuckDuckGo is your friend. You should use it. For example, in spite of what you hear from conservative news, police deaths have declined nearly 50% (if I recall correctly) since the 70s, in spite of a 50% population increase. Again, Google is your friend. Get some facts instead of spouting unsupported ideological "statements".


Jul 12, 2019
With 50% of the school population below the bell curve and told they are below the bell curve from year one, these people have to choice but to find their own way in life.

Our education system is not designed to help them, it never was.

With the abolishment of trade unions you have condemned these people to a life of crime or dead end jobs with no chance of further educational achievements.

Jul 12, 2019
idjyit You bring up a great point. Our educational system is highly biased against the trades. They shove everyone into college regardless aptitude of and then wonder why the graduates cannot get a job that pays enough to enable them to pay back the student loans.

Jul 12, 2019
Using the logic presented in the above paper I can prove that giving out speeding and reckless driving tickets causes these drivers to be involved in more accidents.

Jul 12, 2019
The stupids think punishing kids is the "right thing to do." Tough love and other bullshit.

These stupids need to be gassed in order to save our society; it's not their society, they don't give a shit about it or they wouldn't be beating up kids.

If you can't stop beating up kids you are psychotic and need to seek treatment before you hurt someone.

Jul 12, 2019
Yea Da, discipline is harmful along with telling a child no! No wonder the poor bastards are committing suicide in droves they just can't cope with the reality of every day life.

Jul 12, 2019
idjyit BTW you are wrong to assume that the trades are for people that are below the bell curve. They all require knowledge and training.

Jul 12, 2019
Ophelia, a major reason the killing of cops have gone down over the last 5 decades is really simple, the potential cop killers are mostly in jail. Here are the statistics:
https://en.wikipe...d_States

Jul 12, 2019
No, discipline is fine. What's not fine is beating kids up like you want to do.

Jul 12, 2019
"No, discipline is fine. What's not fine is beating kids up like you want to do. "

Where exactly did I say that?

Jul 13, 2019
Thugs are thugs. Humiliate them in public instead. No jail, no suspension, just humiliation.

Jul 13, 2019
" It found that rather than decreasing subsequent offending, school suspensions increase this "

Again, this is just more progressive B.S.!!!! They want to free the jails and say the crime is the fault of an unjust society and not the individual.

Meanwhile our major US cities are war zones due to drugs and moral decay. Public schools in most major cities are a joke causing people to send their children to private schools or move to the safer suburbs.


Warped adults who engage in mass shooting sprees are a product of decades of progressivism policies in schools, telling them their lot in life isn't their fault, it's everyone else's. So, in their minds it's ok to take random revenge.

Jul 15, 2019
They never mention Asians because Asians like whites don't get suspended as much as blacks and Latinos but Asians are a visible minority which don't fit into the liberal racialist agenda so they avoid mentioning them in statistics.

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