Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Puckett, Tiffany

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations (LEPF)


Racial discrimination in school discipline for students of color is steeped within the history of educational institutions throughout the United States. Despite the federal law Title VI, which prohibits discrimination in schools based on race, color, or national origin, discriminatory school discipline outcomes persist and perpetuate educational inequities and continued marginalization of students of color. The issue of disparate school discipline is attributed to implicit and explicit adult biases, cultural dissonance between teachers and students, and systemic issues in school discipline policies, such as subjective and vague definitions for minor discipline infractions and wide-sweeping zero-tolerance policies. As a result of discriminatory discipline practices, students of color are being punished more frequently and harshly than their similarly situated white peers, thus decreasing students’ sense of belonging in school and contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. This study analyzes themes from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights complaints on race-based discrimination in student discipline outcomes. Additionally, the study guides school leaders in creating equitable frameworks for systematic policy change in school discipline. The research for this study derives from a conceptual framework aligned with systemic discrimination theory and stereotype threat theory, providing a content analysis on the issues and resolutions regarding discriminatory school discipline outcomes for students of color. The results of this study indicate that African-American male students in high school are most likely to receive discrepant school discipline outcomes due to an overall lack of early-intervention supports, subjective discipline infraction definitions, educators’ difficulty in employing effective classroom management strategies, and a failure to reintegrate previously excluded students back into their school community. In the end, the study concludes that if schools want to achieve more equitable discipline outcomes for students of color, they will benefit from self-monitoring of disaggregated discipline data, revising school discipline policies, and providing ongoing staff training.


145 pages




Northern Illinois University

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