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Who belongs in school? Examining the link between Black and White racial disparities in sense of school belonging and suspension

NCJ Number
Journal of Community Psychology Dated: 2020
Date Published

This study examined the relationship between student race and suspension from school and whether this relationship depends on school-level racial disparities in students' sense of school belonging.


Compared to White students, Black students experience higher rates of exclusionary discipline and less welcoming school environments; however, little empirical research has examined the extent to which these two parallel racial disparities are linked. In examining this issue, the current study used data from 73,755 students (56.4 percent White and 43.6 percent Black or African–American) nested within 131 schools. The study used a series of multilevel models with cross-level interactions. Findings indicate that Black students were consistently more likely to be suspended than White students, but this difference was non-significant in schools where Black students' sense of school belonging was much higher than that of White students. This suggests that schools' efforts toward reducing the discipline gap may benefit from making schools more welcoming to Black students. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020