Out-of-School Suspensions of Black Youths: Culture, Ability, Disability, Gender, and Perspective

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Racial disproportionality in out-of-school suspensions is a persistent social justice issue in public schools. This article examines out-of-school suspensions of four black youths from the perspectives of the youths, their caregivers, and educators. The case involving David, a 14-year-old African American with a learning disability, illustrates the challenges of students experiencing the intersection of disability and race. The case involving George, a 14-year-old Liberian immigrant, illustrates how parents and teachers may form alliances around shared goals and values despite profound cultural differences in understanding of youths' misbehavior. The case involving Nina, a 12-year-old African American, illustrates how educators' failure to consider the context of her misbehaviors as responses to sexual harassment, along with their subsequent harsh punishment and failure to protect her, led to her disengagement from school. The case involving Craig, a 16-year-old African American, provides a glimpse into how the use of criminal justice language to refer to youths' misbehaviors can support the development of a criminalized self-and social identity. These cases illustrate the diversity of black students-including ability, disability, culture, and gender-and how events surrounding suspensions are interpreted by students, caregivers, and educators. Understanding such diversity will undergird implementation of effective alternatives to suspensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-243
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Work (United States)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • African American students
  • African immigrant students
  • Out-Of-School suspensions
  • diversity
  • school-to-prison pipeline


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