Document Type

Honors Project


Advised by Erik Larson of Sociology


Due to the rise of mass incarceration in the United States, a large number of children now have incarcerated parents. While research shows an array of compounding disadvantages of parental incarceration that reverberate through children’s lives, little discussion has gone into how the incarceration of a parent might feedback to how students experience school discipline. My research addresses this gap by analyzing a statewide Minnesota student survey to examine possible explanations for why students who experience parental incarceration also experience higher rates of in-school suspension. High in-school suspension rates persist through expected controls and intervention techniques, showing a unique effect of parental incarceration. Alarmingly, I find that when a student who experiences parental incarceration and a student who has never experienced parental incarceration perform the same deviant behavior, the student who experiences parental incarceration is almost twice as likely to be suspended. Supplemental analysis through interviews with school administrators shows that schools are unaware of the existence of this student population. The lack of awareness of administration, coupled with the child and family’s unwillingness to disclose a stigmatizing identity, ensures that a student’s deviant behavior will not be fully explained to administration nor addressed by them, beginning to illustrate how the school punishment system fails students who experience parental incarceration.



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