Study Reveals Importance of Diversity in Ensuring Equitable Punitive Action

A recent study conducted by researchers at Florida State University (FSU) suggests that increased diversity leads to more equitable disciplinary actions and outcomes among African American, Hispanic, and white K-12 students.

The study revealed that African American and Hispanic students were more likely to be suspended in schools with larger minority populations than their white peers at the same institution. Conversely, in districts that had more diverse school boards that included white, black, and Hispanic members, all students, no matter their race or ethnicity, were less likely to be suspended. Furthermore, disparities among minority and white students were significantly reduced at these institutions.

“The research highlights the importance of diversity and its effect on school punishment,” Cresean Hughes, a recent graduate of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at FSU, said in a press release. “As school districts nationally seek to improve school safety and fairness in punishment, our research suggests a greater focus on racial and ethnic relations may be in order.”

Hughes conducted the research along with FSU criminology professors Patricia Warren, Eric Stewart, and Daniel Mears. They were assisted by Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The team’s findings are based on an analysis of Florida Department of Education data from the state’s middle and high schools.

Through their research, Hughes and his colleagues sought insight into the effect of school suspensions on students’ potential for entering the criminal justice system.

“There’s been a lot of research in the past 20 years about the ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’” said Hughes, “which argues that school discipline can be a precursor to involvement in the criminal justice system.”