Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School Psychology


This study sought to examine school-related predictors of exclusionary discipline practices and racial disproportionality in exclusionary discipline via a mixed-methodology approach involving a quantitative analysis of contextual factors, and a qualitative/quantitative examination of the role of teacher perception in contributing to exclusionary discipline patterns. Relying on publicly available school discipline data, Phase I involved a multiple regression analysis of 200 school districts that were purposefully selected within a state in the midst of school discipline reform to examine the impact of district size, student demographics, teacher demographics, and school funding in predicting the most extreme patterns of exclusionary discipline usage. Phase II involved further analysis into six school districts from the initial analysis, where teachers completed an open-ended questionnaire designed to examine how they think about subjective student behavior, what root causes they attributed to such behavior, and what steps they believed would address such root causes. Questionnaire data were quantified and systematically analyzed through the lenses of deficit thinking theory and school-based root cause analysis through descriptive analyses, ANOVa analyses, and paired samples t-tests. Results of Phase I indicate that student demographic composition (e.g., percentage of students of color enrollment and percentage of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch enrollment) significantly predicted exclusionary discipline patterns and racial disproportionality in discipline usage. Results of Phase II indicate that the perceptions of teachers are significantly correlated with district-level discipline patterns, providing further support for the idea that school discipline begins in the classroom. Furthermore, results indicate that deficit thinking likely manifests among teachers throughout all school contexts, regardless of the larger school discipline district data. Finally, results also indicate that teacher perception may be more alterable than previously believed, and highlight the importance of shifting the historical narrative of how student misbehavior is conceptualized in schools. Implications for educational reform efforts, teacher professional development, root cause analysis, and opportunities for multicultural school-based consultation are provided.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.