The Impact of Restorative Practices and Zero-Tolerance Policies on Absenteeism, Suspensions, and Academic Performance on African-American Male Students in a Predominantly Black High School

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American high school educators have developed and adopted various disciplinary practices to discourage misconduct among students. Amongst the popular practices are zero-tolerance policies and restorative procedures. Zero-tolerance policies are those whereby student punishment occurs when they violate the code of conduct. Usually, it results in their suspension. Thus, they miss school for a period, which may negatively impact their academic performance. Restorative practices involve using strategies that seek to improve and repair relationships between students or students and staff. They avoid punitive measures that may include suspension, allowing the student not to miss school time. However, studies conducted by education researchers have shown a disparity in the instilling of discipline in schools; African-American students’ punishment is more intense than that of their peers. Examination of the genders of both races separately shows that disparity is even more significant. The punishment of African-American male students, when compared to their peers, is more intense for similar misconduct. These disparities affect academic achievement, the likelihood of graduation, and performance on standardized tests that measure readiness for college and career. Therefore, this study sought to find the impact of restorative practices and zero-tolerance policies on absenteeism, suspensions, and academic performance on African-American male students in a predominantly black high school. The predominantly black high schools in New Jersey have high racial disciplinary gaps compared to other states in the country. Hence, the study analyzed absenteeism, number of suspensions, and academic performance in a high school that had implemented traditional zero-tolerance policies and compared it to a high school that had implemented restorative practices as a disciplinary measure. The schools’ records for the 2018-19 year were the source of data; it included information on students’ standardized test scores, suspensions, absences, and the school’s makeup by gender and race. To keep up with research ethics, the researcher redacted the students’ personal information and obtained permission from the school administration before using the data for the study. The study is quantitative and involved the statistical analysis of the quantifiable data. The researcher also used positivism philosophy in this study to calculate the impact of disciplinary actions. Overall, the data examined was of 456 African-American male students. The school that implemented restorative practices saw marginal signs of improvement in the number of chronically absent students. The restorative practice school also had a higher percentage of students with no suspensions and fewer students with one or more suspensions. Students at the school with traditional zero-tolerance policies had marginal gains with a higher rate of students meeting or exceeding expectations in English Language Arts and Math standardized tests. The study adds to the research on disciplinary actions in American high schools, but researchers can further study the topic to determine if the findings are similar in other states. Researchers can also examine other disciplinary actions such as PBIS to determine if their implementation leads to better academic performance, reduced suspensions, and lower absenteeism rates among African-American male students when compared to peers.

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  • 04/04/2024
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