Abstract: Social Workers and Urban School Discipline: Do We Need a Time out? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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594P Social Workers and Urban School Discipline: Do We Need a Time out?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Sonyia Richardson, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
John Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor in Multicultural Education, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Background and Purpose: School social workers function in critical roles of social change by recommending alternative disciplinary practices to prevent school suspensions and expulsions, particularly in urban school districts which experience higher rates of discipline disproportionality based on race and gender (Barrett et al., 2017). This study analyzed the number of social workers in an urban school district with well documented disproportionate school discipline outcomes to determine if the presence of a social worker predicted school suspensions (i.e., out-of-school and in-school) by race and gender when controlling for school- and student-level factors.

Methods: The variables for this study were collected from the 2015-2016 academic year datasets from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights Database (student enrollment, in-school, and out-of-school suspensions, number of social workers), the U.S. Department of Education Demographics and Geographic Estimates Program (urbanicity), and the U.S. Department of Education Common Core Dataset (free and reduced lunch). Hierarchical multiple regression was calculated with school type, free and reduced lunch percentage, and total student enrollment in the first step, and the number of full-time (FTE) social workers entered into the final step. Several hierarchical multiple regressions were conducted on the dependent variables of in-school and out-of-school suspensions for Black, Latinx, and White students.

Results: Each independent variable (in-school suspensions and out-of-school suspensions by race/ethnic group and gender) were computed individually in the hierarchical multiple regression. When the variable of social workers was entered into the model, in-school suspensions for Latinx males F(4, 1412.35) = 20.06 p <.001 (R2 =.33) R2Δ = .06, Latinx females R2(4, 151.16) = 15.70 p <.001 (R2 = .27) R2Δ = .09, Black males F(4, 4752.72) = 42.01 p< .001 (R2 = .51) R2Δ = .25, Black females F(4, 7864.76) = 26.29 = p < .001 (R2 =.39) R2Δ = .18, and White males F(4,1476.33) 33.56 = p <.05 (R2 = .45) R2Δ = .01. For out-of-school suspensions, Latinx males F(4, 384.27) 17.08 = p <.001 (R2 =.30) R2Δ =.11, Latinx females F(4, 151.16) 15.70 = p <.001 (R2 = .27) R2Δ = .09, and Black Males F(4, 4752.72) = 42.01 p< .001 (R2 =.51) R2Δ = .25, and Black females F(4, 3881.20) 34.16= p< .001 (R2 = .46) R2Δ = .19. White students out-of-school suspensions could not be predicted with this model, as there was not a statistically significant finding.

Conclusion and Implications: The findings indicate that as schools in this district employ more social workers, in-school suspensions for students of color increases while suspensions for White male students decreases. In regards to out-of-school suspensions, a larger number of social workers employed in this school district results in increases for students of color. Implications include providing additional training for school social workers on advocating for fair disciplinary practices and for keeping abreast of discipline disproportionality data in their school and district.