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The meaning of out-of-school suspensions for African American families

Partner

Priscilla Gibson is the Principal investigator for this line of research.

Aim

Our aim is to understand the perspectives of African-American children and their caregivers on children’s out-of-school-suspension, and to relate these interpretations to that of the educators involved in the suspensions.

Project Summary

The proposed research addresses a central educational and social justice issue: racial disparities in disciplinary practices; specifically, out-of-school suspensions (OSS). OSS are the removal of a student from the school environment for up to ten days. They may be imposed by top school administrators and generally are metered out for nonviolent behaviors such as insubordination and defiance of classroom instructions, and fighting with peers.  Nationally, Black children are three times more likely than white children to be suspended. OSS are associated with lower educational achievement and have been implicated in the achievement gap. Exploring the meaning of OSS provides an important context for considering the broader issue of how education can better reach its potential to promote equal opportunities in our complex, pluralistic and racialized society. Yet, relatively little research has examined the culturally specific meanings of OSS for African-American children and their families. The central research question addressed by our ongoing research is: How do African American children who have been suspended, their caregivers and educators interpret the practice of OSS, including reasons for suspensions, the suspension process, the impact of OSS on children and families, and racial disparities?  We approach this question from a cultural developmental framework using qualitative methods.