School suspension, expulsion more likely to predict youth drug use than police arrest

Washington: While research has already found that disciplinary practices lead to juvenile justice interventions, yet it’s unclear which form of intervention–being suspended and expelled from school or being arrested by police–is more likely to lead youth to use drugs.

A new longitudinal study found that practices that exclude youth from school appear to predict drug use more than arrests by police, especially among minority youth.

The research by George Mason University and University of Florida, appears in Justice Quarterly, a publication of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Speaking about it, Beidi Dong,said, “Our findings add to growing concerns about school disciplinary practices that exclude youth.”

“Amid alarm about the school-to-prison pipeline, the conclusion that school exclusion is even more problematic for students’ well-being than police arrest highlights the need to find alternative methods to discipline students so exclusion is used only as a last resort,” Dong added.

The study saw researchers from the longitudinal Rochester Youth Developmental Study (RYDS) to examine both the immediate, concurrent influence of school and police interventions on drug use during adolescence and the long-term, cumulative effect of these interventions during adolescence on subsequent drug use in young adulthood.

The RYDS began in 1988 with 1,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students in Rochester, NY. It included students from a range of races and ethnicities, and featured more males and more youth from high-crime neighbourhoods to over-represent high-risk youth.

School exclusionary practices appeared to predict drug use more than police arrests during both adolescence and young adulthood, the study found. The negative effects were especially pronounced among minority youth. The results differed for males and females, with school exclusion predictive of concurrent drug use for females but not for males, and predictive of subsequent adult drug use for males but not for females.

“Removing adolescents from school provides unstructured and unsupervised time that can facilitate drug use, while being arrested does not necessarily do so,” noted the study’s co-author, Marvin D. Krohn.