Ethnic identity tied to disparities in school suspensions among Florida youth
Research has established that racial disparities exist in suspensions at school, with Black and Hispanic students more likely to be suspended than white, non-Hispanic students. A new study found that focusing only on broad categories like Black or Hispanic masks important differences in the likelihood of suspension.
"When looking across the more than a dozen unique subgroups of youth in the study, it's the youth from racial/ethnic groups that tend to have the darkest skin tone that also have the greatest likelihood of suspension, even after accounting for all the other personal, social, attitudinal, and behavioral background factors of each of the more than 50,000 study participants,"' said Ryan Meldrum, co-author of the study and professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs at FIU.
Making use of one-of-a-kind information collected by the state of Florida from more than 54,000 youth as part of the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, researchers from Florida International University and Sam Houston State University, examined differences in self-reported suspension from schools across 13 separate categories of race/ethnicity.
These included: Mexican, Central American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, other Hispanic groups, Haitian, West Indian/Caribbean, Dominican, Black/non-Hispanic, Asian, Native American, White/non-Hispanic and other race/ethnicity. The study took into account other factors that might explain the disparities in suspensions and still the disparities remained.
"Most studies investigating racial and ethnic disparities in school suspension are limited to just a few discrete categories of race/ethnicity—for example, white, Black, Hispanic, and 'other race,'" Meldrum added. "Given the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the United States, particularly within the state of Florida, examining potential differences in school suspensions when capturing a student's ethnic identity in a manner that more accurately reflects who they are is something we knew was important for advancing this line of research."'
The study revealed that among separate samples of male and female students in Florida middle and high schools, Black/non-Hispanic, Haitian, West Indian/Caribbean, Dominican and Puerto Rican students are most likely to be suspended from school.
After accounting for a wide range of other factors, the findings showed that the probability of school suspension meets or exceeds 10% for some minority groups, which is significantly greater than the likelihood of suspension among white students, particularly for females.
Moreover, even though male students are, on average, more likely to receive a school suspension than female students, the study found that racial/ethnic disparities in suspension were greater among females. For example, Haitian or Black/non-Hispanic female students were nearly three times as likely to be suspended as white female students.
The analysis accounted for several factors that might otherwise explain racial/ethnic and gender disparities in school suspension, including each student's family background, neighborhood environment, delinquent attitudes, levels of self-control, bullying behavior and delinquency.
"It remains unclear exactly why the disparities identified persist after taking into account all of these varied factors," said Peter Lehmann, lead author of the study and assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University. "Past theory and research points to unequal treatment of racial and ethnic minority students, driven in part by stereotypes and discrimination. Our findings are consistent with that pattern."
Previous studies have shown direct evidence that students with darker skin tones are more likely to be suspended from school.
"Unfortunately, it remains a challenge for researchers to capture the attitudes of school personnel who make decisions about suspensions in a study that also collects detailed information from students," Meldrum said. "Until this can be done, a complete understanding of the forces behind these persistent disparities in suspension from school across race, ethnicity and gender will remain elusive."
The complete study entitled, "Racial and Ethnic Identity, Gender, and School Suspension: Heterogeneous Effects Across Hispanic and Caribbean Subgroups," will appear in a special issue of the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency focused on centering race in the study of crime and criminal justice.
More information: Peter S. Lehmann et al, Racial and Ethnic Identity, Gender, and School Suspension: Heterogeneous Effects Across Hispanic and Caribbean Subgroups, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency (2022). DOI: 10.1177/00224278221120689
Provided by Florida International University