It's time to break the news.The Messenger's slogan

School suspensions affect kids for years afterwards. Black children get the worst of it.

Disciplinary action at the K-12 level affects college acceptance rates and quality of life as an adult.

As the U.S. kicks off its school year, here’s a look at how school suspensions are correlated with lower academic performance, college acceptance rates, and general quality of life as an adult. And why Black students get the lion’s share of one of the worst school punishments possible.

Black girls are suspended at a high rate

Black boys, whose share of suspensions more than tripled their share of student enrollment, saw the largest disparities across all groups, though boys identifying as multiracial, American Indian, and Alaska Native also saw disparities.

Students with disabilities, representing 13.2 percent of student enrollment, received roughly 20 percent of in-school suspensions and 25 percent of out-of-school suspensions. When broken out by race, Black students received suspensions at more than double the rate of enrollment of 2.3 percent.

It’s often about perceptions and not particularly bad behavior

While some may generally assume that students only receive school discipline for breaking school rules, social scientists have used data to show how race, gender, disability and class bias at the intersection of punitive discipline policies and systematic inequities lead to disproportional suspensions, Joseph-McCatty told The Conversation.

For instance, she said, Black girls are disciplined in school for wearing natural hair in Afros or for having braids. In other cases, Black girls are more likely to receive school discipline outcomes for subjective infractions such as tone of voice, clothing and disrespect compared to other girls, she said.

Another factor is “adultification,” or the concept coined to describe how Black girls are disproportionately perceived as less innocent, needing less nurturing, less protection, less support, knowing more about sex and adult topics, and are more adult-like than their peers, Joseph-McCatty said.

Disciplinary action’s effects on academic and professional success? Definitely not positive.

In the long term, higher school disciplinary rates are correlated with negative life outcomes, including “mental health difficulties, drug use, criminal victimization, criminal involvement, and later incarceration,” Joseph-McCatty wrote in an email to Grid.

Short term, the research shows that school suspensions for “at-risk” students “often expose them to increased conflicts outside of school, a greater likelihood for future suspensions, and a greater chance for dropout,” Joseph-McCatty wrote.

“But we found for all students, there are large negative impacts on later-life outcomes, related to attending a school with a high suspension rate. That suggests there are not overwhelmingly positive benefits of removing disruptive peers from the classroom.”

How do disciplinary records impact college admissions?

The Common App, an admissions application used by more than 1,000 colleges and universities, started including required sections on disciplinary action — for students and guidance counselors — in 2006. At the time, the Common App Board defended the section as a way to help colleges decide if a prospective student should be a part of the community they were building, according to a 2015 report.

Start your day with the biggest stories and exclusive reporting from The Messenger Morning, our weekday newsletter.
By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use.
Sign Up.