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Student exclusions from school in Massachusetts: Are students treated equally?

Lawrence Wesley Gray, Johnson & Wales University


The 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act required states to adopt zero-tolerance legislation mandating a one-year expulsion from school of students who bring guns to school. The law in Massachusetts contains no requirement for alternative education for expelled students. Consequently, students expelled under this law are not usually provided with alternative education. Massachusetts law also includes weapons other than guns, drug use, and assaults on staff members. Research into school discipline indicates that students who receive punitive discipline are significantly more likely to drop out of school. This research also indicates that students from racial minorities are significantly more likely to receive punitive discipline than white students. Further, this research suggests that schools that use punitive discipline have more incidents of disruptive behavior than schools that use rehabilitative discipline. In addition, special education students are largely exempt from the provisions of these laws. Existing research does not appear to support the use of expulsion. This study used the ex post facto, causal-comparative method. The basic research design was a quasi-experimental, single group time, series design. Using data from annual reports of student exclusions from the Massachusetts Department of Education, this study investigated the effect of the student expulsion laws in terms of the number of students expelled, the proportion of non-white and special education students expelled, and the proportion of expelled students provided with alternative education. The data was analyzed using standard statistical techniques of correlation, regression, and chi-square analysis. The results of the study found no significant relationship between the number of students excluded from school and the Massachusetts zero-tolerance expulsion law. Regular education students were significantly underrepresented in the population of excluded students receiving alternative education. Nonwhite students, specifically Black and Hispanic students, were significantly overrepresented in the population of excluded students. Special education students were significantly overrepresented in the population of excluded students. The results of this research are being used to inform public policy makers of the negative consequences of zero-tolerance legislation. The results of this study are also being used to support legislation mandating alternative education for students who are expelled from school in Massachusetts.

Subject Area

School administration|Law|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Gray, Lawrence Wesley, "Student exclusions from school in Massachusetts: Are students treated equally?" (2000). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3017529.