Higher suspension rates are linked to feeling less ‘connected’ at school

Feelings among students that adults at school do not care about them are associated with lower attendance, lower rates of volunteerism, and more sick days.

Sep 27 2019 | 06:28 PM

Adolescents attending schools with high suspension rates reported lower levels of feeling “connected” at school, according to a recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Previous research has shown that feeling “connected” at school and volunteering relate to a positive school climate.

“School connectedness” is the feeling that adults at school care about students and their education. The study found that lower levels of school connectedness were associated with lower attendance, lower rates of volunteerism, and more sick days.

“Teens attending schools with high suspension rates say they feel less connected to their schools and fewer of them participate in volunteer activities,” said Susan Babey, senior research scientist at the health policy research center and lead author of the study. “Our research showed teens who feel more connected to school report fewer sick days and feel their schools are safe.”

The authors propose strategies to increase school connectedness and participation in civic activities.

“We recommend providing opportunities that allow students, families, school staff and communities to work together to improve the school climate,” said Joelle Wolstein, center research scientist and co-author of the study. “For example, we would encourage schools to move away from exclusionary discipline practices such as out-of-school suspensions in favor of restorative justice practices such as community service to restore a harm that was done or peer mediation to resolve conflict,” she said.

“Schools can expand learning beyond the classroom by encouraging and connecting youth to opportunities to support and improve their communities,” said Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, which supported the study. “Not only does this strengthen their connection to their communities, each other and their teachers, but it also helps build healthy school environments.”

Source: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research: newsroom.ucla.edu

Key findings:
53 percent of teens attending schools with low suspension rates report high levels of school connectedness, compared to 44 percent of teens attending schools with high suspension rates.
51 percent of teens attending schools with low suspension rates volunteered in the past year, compared to 34 percent of teens at schools with high suspension rates.
46 percent of Latino teens indicate high levels of school connectedness, compared to 64 percent of white teens. Latino teens were also less likely than white teens to have volunteered in the past year (34 percent versus 66 percent).
48 percent of teens from low-income families report high levels of connectedness, compared to 62 percent from higher income families.
53 percent of teens with high levels of school connectedness volunteered in the past year compared to 40 percent of those with low levels of connectedness.