Punishing parents: school discipline, security, and parental outcomes in U.S. public schools

Mowen, Thomas James
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University of Delaware
Although crime and delinquency in U.S. public schools are near historic lows, concern over unwanted behavior remains a high priority among school officials and policy makers. As a result, harsh school discipline and security practices have increased in the hallways of schools over the past few decades. The effect of these changes on student outcomes has been well documented, but there has been little attention given to understanding the consequences of these trends on parents. Using data from the Educational Longitudinal Study (2002), and qualitative interviews collected in 2012 and 2013, I explore the effect of school discipline on parents and the collateral consequences on families. Results indicate parents are less likely to be formally involved, but are more likely to be negatively involved in schools with high levels of school discipline and security. A series of multi-level models show that dimensions of social capital and social status help explain these trends. Qualitative narratives demonstrate that parents--primarily working-class, single, Black mothers--feel frustrated, cheated, attacked, and betrayed by school officials. Parents also reported negative financial, physical, and emotional consequences, and a decrease in future aspirations for their child caused by school discipline and security.