College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-22-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez, PhD

Second Advisor

Joseph Ferrari, PhD

Third Advisor

Luciano Berardi, PhD


Latinos are the largest growing and overall youngest population in the US, in comparison to other ethnic groups. Nearly 40% of Hispanic youth were found to be living in poverty, the largest group of any minority. As of 2014, 20% of Hispanics had less than a high school education and fourteen percent had an educational attainment between ninth and tenth grades; indicating that they had begun a high school education but were unable to finish. Racial and ethnic disparities have also been found to exist within the justice system; Hispanics accounted for twenty-two percent of the prison population while only accounting for seventeen percent of the general population. Racial disproportionality in school discipline, particularly that of exclusionary punishment such as out-of-school suspensions, may account for differences in educational achievement and negative outcomes associated with these disparities noted to exist between minority groups and their white counterparts. Since the 1990s there has been an increase in use of zero-tolerance policies by school districts nationwide. Use of such policies, and passing of laws by various states mandating the referral to law enforcement for various school infractions, have facilitated the increase in the number of police officers used in schools. Researchers have noted a strong association between the increased use of zero-tolerance policies in school discipline, disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates, and increased use of the criminal justice system. The combined effects of ecological risk factors with school suspensions and arrests, have significantly predicted antisocial behaviors (behaviors warranting school discipline), more out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and school drop-out than to reduce the likelihood of more disruptive behavior. Although Latino/a youth face a plethora of ecological risk within their communities, not all succumb to the same devastating outcomes. This study used resiliency theory as a framework to investigate whether ethnic identity served as a protective factor to moderate the relationship between ecological risk and out-of-school suspensions. Negative binomial regression analysis on a sample of 362 Latino/a adolescents, from two low-SES community high schools in the Midwest, revealed a statistically significant relationship between the total number of stressors and out-of-school suspensions; such that more reported stressors in 9th grade significantly predicted out-of-school suspension in 10th grade. Ethnic identity did not, however, moderate that relationship; but, stronger ethnic identity did serve to predict fewer out-of-school suspensions. A more sustainable approach to correcting youth behavior in schools is warranted.

SLP Collection