The school-to-prison pipeline is a system of zero tolerance educational policies in which students of color, including Latinos, are disproportionately disciplined and ultimately funneled into the criminal justice system at elevated rates. Suspensions, expulsions, and arrests are key predictors for Latino youth dropping out of high school. Positive interactions with caregivers and teachers are pivotal protective factors youth well-being. We lack knowledge regarding these relationships as protective factors for suspensions and expulsions or interactions with police. The current study explores Latino adolescent caregiver and teacher relationships and suspensions, expulsions, and police interactions.
Data were drawn from the baseline wave (1998-2000) and the 15-year follow up Wave 6 (2014-2017) of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (FFCWB). The FFCWB is a longitudinal study by Princeton University and Columbia University. Wave 6 data include responses from youth at 15 years old. All youth with mothers who identify as Latina were included (n = 835). Dependent variables included suspensions/expulsions (measured as one variable), being stopped by police, and being arrested. Each variable was reported by both the youth and the caregiver for a total of six dichotomous dependent variables. Of those who had been suspended/expelled, interacted with police, or arrested, additional analyses were conducted to predictors for the number of incidents. Logistic regression analyses were used to explore continuous dependent variables. Negative binomial regression analyses were employed to analyze count dependent variables.
Descriptive analysis of youth responses indicated that 12.2% of participants had been suspended/expelled, 13.5% stopped by police, and 2.6% arrested. All logistic regression models were significant. In terms of youth-reported dichotomous dependent variables, predictors for suspensions/expulsions included teachers caring about students and trouble getting along with teachers. Trouble getting along with teachers was the greatest predictor (OR = 1.6, p = .000). For being stopped by police, sharing ideas with mom, treating teachers with respect and getting along with teachers were predictors. Sharing ideas with mom was the greatest predictor (OR = 1.36, p = .02). Teachers caring about students predicted being arrested (OR = 3.84, p = .000). For caregiver report of these same variables, educational attainment was a significant predictor in every regression model. In addition, getting along with teachers correlated with reduced odds of suspensions/expulsions. Among youth who had been suspended or expelled, kids treating teachers with respect predicted fewer numbers of suspension/expulsions.
Conclusions and Implications:
Results build upon existing literature regarding Latino youth and educators. Positive caregiver and teacher relationships served as protective factors for suspensions/expulsions and having police interactions. Findings yield additional insight into the relationships of Latino adolescents with caregivers and educators as well as interactions with police. Providers and educators can consider findings in regard to interventions for the school-to-prison pipeline. Future research should evaluate parent and teacher relationships from a culturally sensitive lens that defines respect and relationship quality, in addition to considering familism, as defined by Latino youth and families.