New research finds that when kindergartners and first-graders are suspended from school, they can find it very difficult to get back on the right track both behaviorally and academically — especially boys.
Despite significant evidence demonstrating the detrimental effects of school suspension, there have been major gaps in research about which particular traits may put a child in early elementary school at risk for suspension and how these traits may vary by gender.
In the new study, researchers sought to address some of these gaps by analyzing gender and trait differences in suspended kindergartners and first graders. They also looked at whether these traits would continue to be predictors of suspension one and three years later.
“Not only are children who are suspended at a young age missing out on time spent in early learning experiences, but they are also less likely to be referred to services and supports they need to thrive in later school years,” said Dr. Zibei Chen, a research fellow at the University of Michigan (U-M) School of Social Work.
These young students, especially boys, are likely to be suspended again later in elementary school, according to Chen and colleagues at Louisiana State University (LSU).
Suspensions are often used as an approach to discipline, Chen said, but questions remain about how effective suspension can be in addressing future behavior problems and the impact on academic progress. When a true solution to behavior problems is not found, many of these students eventually end up dropping out of school.
The research involved 3,495 kindergarten and 1st grade elementary school students who had been referred to a truancy program from 348 public schools.
Researchers found that boys rated by teachers as aggressive, defiant and disruptive are more likely to be suspended in kindergarten and first grade. They are also less engaged in school.
Girls who are more likely to be suspended include those rated as disruptive and lacking in parental school involvement. These predictors of suspension in kindergarten and first grade were also predictors of suspension one and three years later.
Overall, boys and African-American students are more likely to be suspended than girls, and white and Hispanic students, respectively.
Dr. Mi-Youn Yang, LSU assistant professor of social work and the study’s lead author, said the findings show that black students experience disproportionate suspensions, but these incidents are not always straightforward. Sometimes these behavioral problems may be reported by teachers who hold implicit racial biases and who don’t give out the same punishments to white students, she said.
The study pulled data from an initiative of the Social Research and Evaluation Center at the LSU College of Human Sciences and Education. Other authors include LSU researchers Erin Harmeyer and Blaine Masinter Lofaso.
The findings are published in Children and Youth Services Review.
Source: University of Michigan