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«The Social Control of Childhood Behavior via Criminalization or Medicalization: Why Race Matters DISSERTATION Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the ...»

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There is a relatively consistent significant and positive association between the school-level disadvantage and the use of punitive school discipline. However, the association between school disadvantage and medicalized school discipline runs in different directions for IDEA and Section 504. Specifically, a greater proportion of students receiving free and reduced lunch is associated with greater use of services under IDEA and a lower use of services under Section 504. Meanwhile, district-level disadvantage is consistently associated with a greater likelihood of all three types of school discipline. Additionally, federal and state funding is consistently associated with school discipline. First, schools in districts who receive more federal funding for IDEA services are more likely to provide services under IDEA and have lower rates of students on Section 504 plans. Second, federal funding for Safe Schools, typically used to hire SROs and implement stricter disciplinary measures (Kupchik 2010) is negatively associated with school punishment and the provision of services under IDEA.

To examine the moderating influence of district-level racial composition at levelon the level-1 relationship between school-level racial composition and school discipline, Model 2 for each dependent variable includes cross-level interactions between the group-mean centered school-level measure of percent African-American and the grand-mean centered district-level measure of percent African-American (Enders and Tofighi 2007; Kreft and De Leeuw 1998). Notably, the “main effect” coefficients for percent African-American at both the school- and the district-level remain statistically significant in most cases and in the expected directions. Importantly, the statistically significant interaction terms for all three dependent variables suggest that the relationship between school-level racial composition and school discipline varies across districts with different racial compositions. To help facilitate a discussion of these patterns, I turn to a series of figures displaying marginal effects, or expected differences in rates of school punishment and medicalization across school districts with different racial compositions.

Figure F.1 presents marginal differences in punishment rate for a one standard deviation (13.3 percent) difference in school-level percent African-American in school districts with different racial compositions. As Figure F.1 illustrates, the positive association between school-level African-American composition and rates of school punishment is less pronounced in districts with relatively larger African-American populations. In school districts where five percent of the population is AfricanAmerican, schools with a one standard deviation (13.3 percent) larger African-American student body have 17.4 percent higher expected rates of suspension and expulsion that schools in the same district with smaller African-American student bodies. A similar difference in school-level percent African-American is associated with 15 percent higher expected rates of school punishment in a district where 15 percent of the population is African-American and 12.5 percent higher expected rates of school punishment when the district-level percent African-American is 25 percent. Notably, once African-Americans reach a statistical majority at the district-level, the marginal influence that differences in school-level racial composition have on school punishment is much less pronounced than in districts with relatively smaller African-American populations. Within these districts, the expected rates of school punishment schools that vary by one standard deviation (13.3 percent) in their school-level percent African-American differ by 6.8 percent.

Turning to the first of medicalized school discipline dependent variables, Figure F.2 presents expected differences in rates of IDEA enrollment for a one standard deviation (13.3 percent) difference in school-level percent African-American in school districts with different racial compositions. As Figure F.2 illustrates, while statistically significant, the association between school-level racial composition and rates of IDEA enrollment is relatively weak. Notably, in the districts with the relatively smallest and relatively larger African-American populations, the association between one standard deviation (13.3 percent) differences in school-level percent African-American and rates of IDEA enrollment go in opposite directions. In school districts where five percent of the population is African-American, a one standard deviation (13.3 percent) difference in school-level percent African-American is associated with 3.3 percent lower expected rates of IDEA enrollment. On the other hand, a similar difference in school-level percent African-American is in a district where at least half of the population is associated with

2.5 percent lower expected rates of IDEA enrollment.

Lastly, Figure F.3 presents expected differences in rates of Section 504 enrollment for a one standard deviation (13.3 percent) difference in school-level percent African-American in school districts with different racial compositions. The statistics presented in Figure F.3 provide evidence that the negative association between schoollevel African-American composition and medicalized forms of school discipline is more pronounced in districts with relatively larger African-American populations. In school districts with an African-American population around 5 percent, a one standard deviation (13.3 percent) difference in school-level percent African-American is associated with just 2 percent lower expected rates of Section 504 use. A similar contrast in within district school-level percent African-American for districts with 15 percent African-American population is associated with 3.3 percent lower expected rates of Section 504 use.





However, when the African-American composition reaches 50 percent at the districtlevel, a one standard deviation (13.3 percent) difference in school-level percent AfricanAmerican is associated with 7.6 percent lower expected rates of enrollment under Section 504.

Conclusion and Discussion This project argues that schools can criminalize school discipline by using suspension and expulsion, which remove children from the classroom and brand them as troublemakers. On the other hand, schools can medicalize school discipline by using services covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which provides additional education and behavior tools to assist children with medically recognized behavior problems.

Drawing from racialized crime theories and medical sociological perspectives on race and health, this project examines the relationship between racial composition and both criminalized and medicalized school discipline at both the school- and district-level.

Employing school and Census data for 50,095 elementary and middle schools located with 6,128 U.S. school districts, I use random intercept negative binomial models and a group-mean centering strategy to test four related hypotheses regarding these relationships. In doing so, I present evidence of a relationship between the relative size of the African-American population and both criminalized and medicalized disciplinary measures at both the school- and district-level. Furthermore, this project suggests that district-level racial composition attenuates the association between school-level racial composition and school disciplinary policies in ways that expose African-American children to disproportionately punitive school environments while possibly undermining their ability to receive necessary and helpful school services for behavior problems instead.

Findings are generally supportive of the first hypothesis, that schools and districts with relatively larger African-American populations will be more likely to use suspension and expulsion. Specifically, schools with larger African-American student bodies relative to their district mean have greater rates of school punishment. Furthermore, after controlling for the relationship between racial composition and punishment at the schoollevel, districts with larger African-American populations have larger average rates of school punishment. Consistent with racialized crime theories, the use of harsh and punitive school discipline is more common among racial minorities.

Findings provide partial support for the second hypothesis, that schools and districts with relatively larger African-American populations will be less likely to use IDEA or Section 504 to control misbehavior. Schools with larger African-American student bodies relative to the district mean experience lower rates of Section 504 use.

Controlling for within-district differences in school-level African-American composition, districts with larger African-American populations have lower rates of students using services under both IDEA and Section 504.

Similar to racialized crime theories, race and health perspectives in medical sociology argue that discrimination and distrust in the American health care system translate into racial disparities in health and services provided (Link and Phelan 1995;

Williams et al. 2010). Importantly, these disparities are going to exist even when socioeconomic disparities and access to resources are controlled for. Thus, similar to other forms of social control, when there is room for discretion, racial disparities are likely to be pronounced. Here, resources and decisions regarding IDEA are often formally implemented at the district-level. District residents must seek out diagnosis and treatment from available providers (Gius 2007; Holler and Zirkel 2008; Zirkel 2011).

Furthermore, funding for IDEA services is allocated among children at the district-level and not the school-level. On the other hand, Section 504 relies completely on schooland district-level discretion and resources (Gius 2007; Kim, Losen, and Hewitt 2010).

Consequently, parents of students attending predominantly African-American schools in predominantly African-American districts may be less aware of services and rights than residents of other districts (Kim, Losen, and Hewitt 2010).

Findings also provide support for the third hypothesis, proposing that the positive association between school-level African-American composition and medicalized school discipline will be less pronounced in districts with relatively larger African-American populations. In predominately White school districts, residents may view AfricanAmerican students as threatening to their childrens’ economic well-being or safety (Pickett and Chiricos 2012; Welch and Payne 2010). Thus, African-American school children are more likely to be considered in need of social control and schools in these districts with relatively larger African-American student bodies are likely to use suspension and punishment at greater rates (Pickett and Chiricos 2012). For example, while district-wide zero tolerance expulsion policies are not likely to vary from district to district, the use of such measures within-district may be much greater in more racially diverse schools in Whiter districts (Hirschfield 2008; 2010; Kim, Losen, and Hewitt 2010). On the other hand, in districts with relatively larger African-American populations, rates of school punishment may be relative high across all schools and less sensitive to within district differences in racial composition (Hirschfield 2008b).

Finally, findings provide support for part of the fourth hypothesis, that the negative association between school-level African-American composition and punitive school discipline will be more pronounced in districts with relatively larger AfricanAmerican populations. Indeed, while the association between school-level racial composition and the use of Section 504 is more pronounced in districts with relatively larger African-American populations, the negative association between race and IDEA enrollment is actually attenuated in this same districts, eventually changing direction. If discrimination and distrust in the American health care system translate into racial disparities in health and services provided and drive both school and district level main effects, these disparities may be more pronounced when it comes to Section 504, which relies heavily on teacher and administrator discretion and available information and resources (Gius 2007; Kim, Losen, and Hewitt 2010). On the other hand, decisions regarding how IDEA is implemented across schools are implemented at the district-level and factors associated with IDEA, particularly formal diagnosis, are heavily conditioned by race (Miller, Nigg, and Miller 2009). Consequently, in predominantly AfricanAmerican districts, slight differences in racial composition are less likely to matter for IDEA enrollment that for Section 504 (Kim, Losen, and Hewitt 2010). On the other hand, in predominately White districts, where residents are better equipped with information about treatment and their rights under the law, finite resources are more likely to be distributed across to schools with relatively fewer African-American students (Kim, Losen, and Martinez 2010; Kupchik 2010).

While these findings present evidence that racial and ethnic population factors influence how schools implement measures of school discipline, there remain some unanswered questions. First, this project examines overall rates of criminalized and medicalized school discipline rather than analyze the race of students being punished or medicalized in the schools. While this information is available in the data, the strategy of describing broad patterns of school discipline rather than focusing on specific racial differences allows me to test for overall school environment. While future research will seek to answer important questions surrounding racially patterned use of discipline among different students in schools, an examination of broader patterns provides an excellent starting point for the conversation about the criminalization and medicalization of school discipline.



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