April 2011
Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology;Spring2011, Vol. 101 Issue 2, p633
Academic Journal
One of the strongest findings in the juvenile delinquency literature is the relationship between a lack of school success, school disengagement, and involvement in the criminal justice system. This link has been deemed the "school-to-jail pipeline." To date, research has not clarified the antecedents or origins of this school failure and disengagement, although it is known that it occurs at relatively young ages. This study examines one possible source: racial bias in school discipline experienced during the elementary school years. Using a multi-level analysis, we examine whether African-American elementary school students are more likely to receive disciplinary infractions while controlling for individual-level, classroom- level, and school-level factors. Our findings, robust across several models, show that African-American children receive more disciplinary infractions than children from other racial categories. Classroom factors, school factors, and student behavior are not sufficient to account for this finding. We also find that school-level characteristics (e.g., percentage of black students) are related to overall discipline levels, consistent with a racial threat hypothesis. These findings have important implications for the school-to-jail literature and may point to one explanation for why minority students fare less well and are more likely to disengage from schools at a younger age than whites.


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