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We had a new study published today in Exceptional Children. We synthesized the existing empirical studies to evaluate whether and to what U.S. schools are discriminating when suspending or otherwise disciplining students with #disabilities (SWD) 1/N. journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.11…
SWD have been reported to be more likely to be suspended, leading to suggestions that schools use discriminatory #discipline practices. Ensuring that SWD are not being unfairly suspended is important because of suspension's associations with many life course adversities 2/N
Because schools may legally suspend SWD, disparities between SWD and SWOD is insufficient to infer discriminatory practices. It may instead be that SWD more often engage in the behaviors that result in suspension (e.g., fighting) including due to academic difficulties. 3/N
To assess for possible discriminatory #discipline practices, we synthesized studies that reported--to varying degrees--contrasts between similarly situated students including in the materially relevant factor of comparable behavior at school. 4/N
Our initial search identified 123 studies. Only 50 of these studies reported risk estimates for SWD. Our 6-part inclusion criteria (e.g., did the study adjust for at least one covariate) resulted in 18 coded studies, 14 reporting on suspension specifically. 5/N
What did we find? For studies reporting on whether SWD were more likely to be suspended, most of the available studies failed to account for differential involvement in the behaviors that might explain between-group differences in suspension. 6/N
For example, in Table 1 above, we were only able to find 6 studies using individual-level controls for either infraction type or behavior. Most of the results from these studies failed to find that SWD were more likely to be suspended than similarly situated SWOD. 7/N #suspension
Of the 2 studies controlling for individual-level behavioral assessments, one study found SWD were more likely to be suspended. The other study did not. Of the 7 available risk estimates, only 2 (29%) indicated SWD were more likely to be suspended than similarly behaving SWOD.
We plotted the odds ratios from the best-available studies. These studies generally reported ORs greater than 1, but only 2 studies accounted for individual-level behavior (Huang, 2018; Wright et al., 2014). Results from these 2 studies were inconsistent. 9/N
We also examined whether SWD were less likely to be suspended than similarly situated SWOD. We found no strong evidence of this. Of 7 estimates from the two studies controlling of individual-level behavior, 0 indicated that SWD were less likely to be suspended. 10/N
Despite being the focus of both federal legislation and regulation, we found no study has yet contrasted whether SWD who are of color are more likely to be suspended than SWD who are White while also controlling for at least one covariate. 11/N
Takeaway? We find that limitations in the available empirical studies preclude strong inferences regarding whether discipline disparities results from U.S. schools using disciplinary practices that discriminate based of disability status. The current work is inconclusive. 12/N
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