School disciplinary referrals and the legal custody of adolescents

Tammy Brady Hickey, Tennessee State University


Too many teenagers consistently get in trouble at school. A few of these students commit major infractions, such as carrying drugs or weapons on campus, which result in automatic expulsion. However, most are involved in minor offenses, which result in warnings, detention, in-school suspensions, or out-of-school suspensions. In our ever-changing world, teenagers are increasingly raised in different custody situations. These different custody situations may relate to student discipline problems. The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not there is a relationship between student disciplinary referrals and legal custody status using students from seven high schools in Rutherford County, Tennessee. A multiple regression analysis was conducted using legal custody, grade, ethnicity, gender and high school attended as the regressors and the number of disciplinary referrals as the criterion. In this study, student disciplinary referrals were defined as excessive tardies to class, skipping class or school, using profanity, fighting, smoking on school grounds, bringing unauthorized materials to school (electronic devices, weapons, drugs, etc.), and disruptive or disrespectful behavior. Four categories of custody were used for the purpose of this study. The four categories were students in the custody of both parents, students in the custody of their mothers, students in the custody of their fathers, and students in the custody of someone other than their parents. The results of this study demonstrate a significant relationship between the group of regressors and disciplinary referrals. A significant correlation was found between legal custody and disciplinary referrals with students in the custody of both parents having fewer disciplinary referrals than those in the custody of mothers only, fathers only, or someone other than a parent. Based on the findings of this study, it is recommended that further research include other variables that may affect disciplinary referrals such as grade point average, socioeconomic status, and the presence of drug abuse. This research reveals the need for educators and administrators to implement intervention programs to help reduce the number of disciplinary referrals in schools.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Tammy Brady Hickey, "School disciplinary referrals and the legal custody of adolescents" (2003). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3116152.