Exploring the Intersections of School Discipline, Discrimination, Connectedness, and Mental Health for African American High School Students
- Author(s): Forrester, Kandace
- Advisor(s): Suad Nasir, Na'ilah
- et al.
Mixed-methods research was conducted to investigate the experiences of African American students in the school discipline system. The relationships between school discipline experiences and gender, perceptions of racial discrimination, feelings of school connectedness, and mental health were also explored. The investigation utilized survey, interview, and observational data. Findings suggest that the majority of African American participants had negative contact with the school discipline system and nearly half of the participants perceived that they had been discriminated against because of their race in school discipline interactions within the current school year. There were no significant gender differences in relation to students' school discipline experiences or their perceptions of discrimination. Findings further indicated a moderate positive correlation between perceived discrimination in school discipline interactions and depressive symptoms. Students' perceptions of discrimination were also positively correlated with their attitude towards teachers and school, but not overall school connectedness. Students' level of contact with the school discipline system was not predictive of their perceptions of discrimination. However, students who had higher levels of contact with the school discipline system (Saturday school and detention consequences) reported using more engaged coping mechanisms, such as speaking up about their experiences and trying to change things, in response to their negative discipline experiences. Overall, findings highlight the frequency with which students have negative and perceived discriminatory school discipline experiences and draws attention to the important internalizing consequences for African American students coming into contact with the school discipline system. The generalizability of findings is limited by the small sample size and selection biases; however, the study nevertheless calls for additional research regarding the variables investigated.