Why Some School “Troublemakers” End Up in Criminal Justice System

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Students who are punished for behavioral problems by being suspended or expelled from school—as opposed to receiving mental health treatment and medication—are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system later in life, according to a study published in Criminology, a journal of the American Society of Criminology. Prior research suggests that Black and Latino students are more likely to receive punishment rather than medical treatment.

“Similar to a criminal record, school punishment involves being labeled as a ‘troublemaker’ who cannot cooperate with authority,” a reputation that follows children throughout their school careers, writes David Ramey, professor of Sociology and Criminology at Pennsylvania State University. He adds that, “compared with their nonpunished peers, students who miss time in the classroom because of a school suspension or expulsion have lower grade point averages, perform worse on standardized aptitude tests and score lower on state-mandated competency examinations.”

The study, entitled, “The Influence of Early School Punishment and Therapy/Medication on Social Control Experiences During Young Adulthood,” examined data from 3,274 White, Black and Latino males that took part in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth between 1988 and 2012.

The study is available for a fee HERE. (Journalists who would like to access the study free of charge should email Deputy Editor Alice Popovici at alice@thecrimereport.org).

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