Journal of Community Psychology

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Who belongs in school? Examining the link between Black and White racial disparities in sense of school belonging and suspension

Abstract Relative to White students, Black students experience higher rates of exclusionary discipline and less welcoming school environments. However, little empirical research has examined the extent to which these two parallel racial disparities are linked. This study examines the relationship between student race and suspension and whether this relationship depends on school‐level racial disparities in students' sense of school belonging. Using data from 73,755 students (56.4% White, 43.6% Black or African–American) nested within 131 schools, this study uses a series of multilevel models with cross‐level interactions. This study finds that Black students are consistently more likely to be suspended than White students, but this difference is nonsignificant in schools where Black students' sense of school belonging is much higher than that of White students'. As such, schools' efforts toward reducing the discipline gap may benefit from making schools more welcoming to Black students.

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