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Exclusionary School Discipline and the Transition to Adulthood for a Baltimore Birth Cohort

Wade Jacobsen, Criminology and Criminal Justice

Millions of students in the United States are suspended or expelled from school each year, and risk is particularly high among racial minorities. This is problematic because a growing body of research documents negative consequences of suspension and expulsion for child and adolescent development. This project will extend prior research by testing whether these exclusionary forms of punishment also interfere with the transition to adulthood. Using a unique combination of survey data and administrative records, this project will follow about 300 Baltimore youth from birth to early adulthood. Specific aims include: (1) to examine the cumulative risk and frequency of three types of exclusionary discipline: in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and expulsion; (2) to examine the effects of each type of exclusionary discipline on enrollment in a college or university by age 20, and on full-time employment among youth who do not enroll; and (3) to examine the extent to which effects on post-secondary enrollment and employment are explained by lost class time, lower achievement, school dropout, juvenile justice involvement, and teenage childbearing. There is an urgent need to understand the consequences of exclusionary discipline in Maryland, particularly among racial minorities, because recent declines in suspension and expulsion rates in the state have mainly benefited white students. Furthermore, Baltimore has seen rapid increases in violent crime and high rates of school bullying in recent years, leading some to press for harsher school discipline policies. This research will advance current knowledge by examining consequences of such discipline in young adulthood and the mechanisms of these consequences. I anticipate that the findings will have important implications for education policy in Maryland.