The Relationship of School Poverty and Suspension Rates: Finding Ways to Reduce Suspension Through Prevention Programming and School Bonding

Shirley, Erica, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

What is the relationship between school poverty and school suspension rates and to what extent do prevention programming and school bonding lower the suspension risk for students in high poverty schools? The present study examined the association between school level poverty and suspension rates in addition to investigating whether prevention programming and school bonding factors moderate the relationship between school-level poverty and suspension rates using a sample of 289 public high schools from the Virginia High School Safety Study. School climate surveys completed by over 7,000 ninth grade students measured characteristics of school bonding, including perceptions of teacher support, levels of commitment to school, and belief in school rules. Over 2,000 teachers completed surveys measuring the extent to which various health and prevention programs are offered at school. Multivariate analysis showed that high poverty schools with low availability of health and prevention programming, low support, and decreased belief in school rules had the highest suspension rates after controlling for school demographics. Parallel analyses were run using disciplinary infraction rates in an effort to distinguish student behavior from schools that over rely on exclusive discipline practices such as suspension. Findings revealed that high poverty schools with high availability of health and prevention programming and high levels of perceived support had the lowest disciplinary infraction rates even when compared to low poverty schools. Similar to the suspension rate finding, high poverty schools with low levels of Belief in School Rules had the highest disciplinary infraction rates. These findings highlight the aspects of school climate that serve as risk and protective factors in high poverty schools

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
school poverty, suspension rates
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