CJJP Collects School Incident Referral Data to Examine Problem Behaviors

The Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning, the state SAC, collected incident referral data from metropolitan area schools in an effort to examine problem behaviors, especially among youth being removed from the classroom. For purposes of this project, incidents referred to a documented occurrence of some type of problem behavior by a student occurring within the school setting.

There were a total of nearly 97,000 incidents reported, involving 16,200 students across four metropolitan school districts. The incident referral rate for Caucasian students was 25.7 per 100 enrolled, while the referral rate for African-American students was 52.3 per 100 enrolled. Further analysis indicated that minority students were not only referred more often for incidents of a subjective nature than white students, but they also were more often removed from school as a result of these referrals. While minorities comprised 44% of the population of referred students, 62% of all removals for "disruptive behavior" involved minority students, and this percentage was even higher (65%) for minority females. Furthermore, 63% of all the removals for disruptive behavior resulting in out-of-school suspensions involved minority students.

While disruptive behavior was the leading reason for removal for all students, Caucasian youth had a greater tendency than minority youth to be removed for less subjective reasons such as possession of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or weapons. While initially data were collected only from the high schools, a subsequent review of referral data from all school levels indicated that some of the most racially disproportionate referrals and sanctions were occurring at the elementary school level.

The data provided for this project were from the 2010-2011 school year. The SAC will continue to request data from the schools at the completion of each school year and will report accordingly. For more information about the project, contact Kile Beisner at Kile.Beisner@iowa.gov.