RMC Research Analyses of Oregon Public School Data Examine Individual and School-Level Influences on Discipline Offenses for Aggression among Students in Grades 1-6

RMC Research directs a study funded by the National Institute of Justice Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The study is designed to take a comprehensive and longitudinal approach to examining school violence and the school-to-prison pipeline through the examination of root causes, consequences of, and implications for Restorative Justice approaches. In one of the first presentations of findings from the study, Dr. Emma Espel (RMC Research) and Dr. Julia Dmitrieva (University of Denver) presented on the topic of individual and school-level influences on discipline offenses for aggression in grades 1-6 at the American Society for Criminology annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia in November 2018.

Previous research suggests that children exhibiting early aggression are more likely to experience negative outcomes, including parental abuse and neglect, substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, and later violent crime (Farrington, 2005; Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi, & Lozano, 2002). Children who are aggressive at school are also more likely to be suspended or expelled, putting them at risk of entering the school to prison pipeline, a trajectory characterized by low achievement, school dropout, juvenile delinquency and adult involvement with the criminal justice system (Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2005). To explore predictors of early aggression and school removal, two research questions were examined:

  1. What trajectory characterizes the risk for disciplinary actions for school violence in elementary grades?
  2. What are the potential individual- and school- level risk factors that contribute to the risk for disciplinary actions in elementary grades?

This study used multilevel discrete‑time event history analysis to examine individual and school factors that predict whether and when a student will be suspended or expelled for aggressive behavior in elementary school. The sample included longitudinal data following 4 cohorts of approximately 44,000 Oregon public school students in 889 schools from Grade 1 through Grade 6 between 2004/05 and 2012/13. Individual‑level and school‑level characteristics relating to race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, prior discipline offenses, were explored. Implications for early intervention and future research were discussed.

Key findings include:

  • As expected, risk for disciplinary action increased across the elementary grades – particularly for suspensions;
  • Risk for disciplinary action was higher for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, were Black, Native American, or Hispanic, or those who had a prior history of offending behavior.
  • Risk for disciplinary action was higher for students in schools with higher proportions of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, students from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, or offending behavior.
  • The relationship between prior offending and risk for disciplinary action was stronger for Hispanic students.

References

Christle, C. A., Jolivette, K., & Nelson, C. M. (2005). Breaking the school to prison pipeline: Identifying school risk and protective factors for youth delinquency. Exceptionality, 13(2), 69–88.

Farrington, D. P. (2005). Childhood origins of antisocial behavior. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 12(3), 177–190.

Krug, E.G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B, & Lozano, R. (Eds.) (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

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