Home > Discipline Referrals in Urban Elementary Schools

Discipline Referrals in Urban Elementary Schools

Courtney Russell

EDIT 6900

Spring 2011

  • Introduction
    • Background for the Study
    • Purpose of the Study
    • Research Questions
    • Significance of the Study
  • Review of Literature 
  • Research Methods 
  • References 
  • African American students are disciplined at rates that are disproportionately higher than Black students�� statistical representation in public schools. Coined as the discipline gap,  racial and ethnic disparities are present in virtually every major school system across the United States (Monroe, 2005). 


  • General Background for the Study:
  • At one urban elementary school, African-American males are being referred to the Main Office for discipline concerns at a highly disproportionate rate to Latino males, as well as to African American and Latina females.  Why?  What can be done about this? 


  • Purpose of the Study
  • The purpose of the study is to ��dig deeper�� into this problem and ultimately utilize the data to (a) engage in meaningful dialogue with educators and (b) strategize for proactive ways to reduce the discipline gap.   
  • Research Questions
  • What percentage of African-American males are being referred to the Main Office as opposed to Latino males?  To African-American females?  To Latina females? 
  • What is the referral percentage for each staff member and what connections can be made from this data? 
  • What patterns can be drawn from the discipline referral data (i.e. time of day, location, interventions attempted prior to Main Office referral, etc.).   


  • Significance of the Study
  • By utilizing data to engage in meaningful dialogue and, in turn, concrete action steps, the staff members involved have the ability to positively impact student behavior and ensure 100% of students are being provided with an excellent education which will lead to a meaningful future.   
  • What Does the Research Tell Us?
  • ��Rather, there appeared to be a differential pattern of treatment, originating at the classroom level, wherein African-American students are referred to the office for infractions that are more subjective in interpretation.  (Michael et al. 2002).   
  • A number of possible hypotheses have been proposed as mechanisms to account for rates of disciplinary disparity by race/ethnicity, including poverty, differential rates of inappropriate or disruptive behavior in school settings, and cultural mismatch or racial stereotyping (Chung et al., 2011).   


  • The discipline gap is a reverse image of the achievement gap for African American, white, and Asian students. Data aggregated at the district level and at the middle and high school level show that African American students, particularly black males, are overrepresented in the ranks of disciplined students across the nation, while white and Asian students are underrepresented compared to their enrollment (Children��s Defense Fund,1975;Gordon et al., 2000; Gregory, 1997; Skiba et al., 2002).
  • More specifically, African Americans are overrepresented in suspension and expulsion (Gordon et al., 2000), and are perceived by teachers as more defiant, rule breaking, or disruptive than other racial and ethnic groups (Newcomb et al., 2002; Wentzel, 2002).  (Gregory and Mosely, 2004). 


  • Why Does It Matter?
  • This study demonstrates that even after controlling for poverty, African American students are disproportionally represented as recipients of exclusionary discipline and that this occurs most frequently in major-urban, very high-poverty schools. These data provide powerful evidence that the spirit of equal access to education is absent in a large sample of schools from a bellwether state. When children are removed from the educational setting, even for their seriously disruptive behavior, then they are unable to access the very forces that might prepare them to be more productive citizens (Mcloughlin and Noltemeyer 2010).   


  • Data will be collected on a daily basis and analyzed on a bi-weekly basis according the flow-chart on the following slide.  Administrators and teachers will collaboratively engage in this process including dialogue and utilizing data to drive next steps.   Quantitative data will be the focus of this study. 
  • Sample Size – 20+ staff members, 138 students
  • K – 2 elementary school
  • Year-long study with regular review of the data
  • Aber, M. & Mattison, E.  (2007).  Closing the Achievement Gap:  The association of racial climate with achievement and behavioral outcomes.  American Journal of  Community Psychology, 40 (1-12), 1 – 12.
  • Bentley, K., Coard, S., Stevenson, H., Thomas, D., Zamel, P.  Racial and emotional factors predicting teachers�� perceptions of classroom behavior maladjustment for urban African American male youth.  Psychology in the Schools, 46 (2), 184 – 196. 


  • Birchmeier, Z., Nicholson-Crotty, Z. & Valentine, D.  (2009).  Exploring the impact of school discipline on racial disproportion in the juvenile justice system.  Social Science Quarterly. 90 (4), 1003 – 1018. 
  • Carroll Nardo, A., Michael, R., Peterson, R., & Skiba, R.  (2002).  The color of discipline:  Sources of racial and gender disproportionality in school punishment.  The Urban Review, 34 (4), 317 – 342. 
  • Chung, C., Horner, R., May, S., Rausch, M., Skiba, R., & Tobin, T.  (2011).  Race is not neutral.   A national investigation of African American and Latino disproportionality in school discipline.  School Psychology Review, 40 (1), 85 – 107. 


  • Downey, D. & Pribesh, S. (2004).  When race matters:  Teachers�� evaluation of students�� classroom behavior.  Sociology of Education, 77 (October), 267 – 282. 
  • Flannery, B., Lewis-Palmer, T., & Tidwell, Amy.  (2003).  A description of elementary classroom discipline referral patterns.  Preventing School Failure, 48 (1), 18 – 26. 


  • Gregory, A. Mosely P.  (2004).  The discipline gap:  Teachers�� views on the overrepresentation of African American students in the discipline system.  Equity & Excellence in Education, 37,  18 - 30
  • Mcloughlin, C. & Noltemeyer, A.  (2010).  Patterns of exclusionary discipline by school typology, ethnicity, and their interaction.  Perspectives on Urban Education, Summer, 28 – 40.   


  • Monroe, C.  (2004).  Understanding the discipline gap through a cultural lens:  implications for the education of African American students.  Intercultural Education, 16 (4), 317 – 330. 


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