Collateral consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline: Adolescent substance use and developmental risk

By Seth J. Prins, Ruth T. Shefner, Sandhya Kajeepeta, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Charles C. Branas, Lisa R. Metsch, Stephen T. Russell in Decarceral public health

February 1, 2023


February 1, 2023


12:00 AM


Objective: The adolescent health consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline remain underexplored. We test whether initiating components of the school-to-prison pipeline—suspensions, expulsions, and school policing—are associated with higher school-average levels of student substance use, depressed feelings, and developmental risk in the following year. Method: We linked 2003–2014 data from the California Healthy Kids Survey and the Civil Rights Data Collection from over 4,800 schools and 4,950,000 students. With lagged multi-level models, we estimated relationships between the school prevalence of total discipline, out-of-school discipline, and police-involved discipline, and standardized school-average levels of 6 substance use measures and 8 measures of developmental risk, respectively. Results: The prevalence of school discipline predicted subsequent school-mean substance use and developmental risk. A one-unit higher prevalence of total discipline predicted higher school levels (in standard deviations) of binge drinking alcohol (0.14, 95% CI: 0.11, 0.17), drinking alcohol (0.15, 95% CI: 0.12, 0.18), smoking tobacco (0.09, 95% CI: 0.06, 0.12), using cannabis (0.16, 95% CI: 0.14, 0.19), using other drugs (0.17, 95% CI: 0.14, 0.21), and violence/harassment (0.16, 95% CI: 0.12, 0.2). Total discipline predicted lower levels of reported community support ( 0.07, 95% CI: 0.1, 0.05), feeling safe in school (-0.12, 95% CI: 0.16, 0.09), and school support ( 0.16, 95% CI: 0.19, 0.12). Associations were greater in magnitude for more severe out-ofschool discipline. Findings were inconsistent for police-involved discipline. Conclusion: Exclusionary school discipline and school policing—core elements of the school-to-prison pipeline—are previously unidentified population predictors of adolescent substance use and developmental risk.

Posted on:
February 1, 2023
2 minute read, 247 words
Decarceral public health
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