Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Kevin T. Wolff

Committee Members

Preeti Chauhan

Lila Kazemian

Adam Fine, External Reader

Subject Categories

Criminology | Education


education, school discipline, suspension, student development, educational trajectories, academic outcomes


Purpose: The literature on exclusionary school discipline has repeatedly documented disparities in its use and its relationship to various negative outcomes, causing the use of suspensions to become a pressing concern in the United States. The goal of this dissertation is to add this body of literature by being the first to examine the educational trajectories youth take after first being suspended, and how the effect of school punishment on trajectories may be more severe for subgroups of students disproportionately affected by school discipline and often underserved in school settings.

Methods: New York City Department of Education data is used to follow a cohort of students beginning 6th grade in SY 2009-2010 (N=66,660) through middle and high school. Multilevel modeling and regressions with clustered standard errors are used to examine factors related to suspension experiences. Next, multi-trajectory modeling is used to determine students’ educational trajectories of school engagement (i.e. GPA, attendance, and discipline) from 7th through 12th grade, and multinomial logistic regression is used to explore how suspension predicts youths’ trajectories of engagement in school. Predicted probabilities are then calculated to determine how suspension interacts with race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and disability status to predict students’ educational development. Finally, structural equation modeling is used to examine how these trajectories help to explain the relationship between suspension and academic outcomes.

Findings: Students of color, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students are all more likely to be suspended than their counterparts, though only students of color are at risk of receiving longer suspensions. Suspension increases the likelihood of group membership in more problematic educational trajectories. For Black and Hispanic/Latinx students, economically disadvantaged students, and students with a disability who have a lower probability of following the most engaged trajectory and a higher probability of following the most disengaged trajectory in grades 7-12, suspension represents an additional significant barrier to success. Suspension is related to academic outcomes both directly and indirectly through the effect it has on educational development.

Conclusion: Suspension has long-term consequences for students’ educational development and outcomes. It is also directly at odds with efforts to eliminate long-standing inequities in academic achievement and attainment through the disproportionate effect it has on students who are most likely to be suspended and have historically been underserved in school settings.