Alternative Title

Discipline and Disproportionality


Valerie Ludley Nelson


Since the 1980’s, the current narrative for disparate outcomes faced by minorities in America’s public schools has been shaped by the fear of violence thus creating the increasingly punitive and exclusionary methodology for school discipline that still exists today (Noguera, 1995). The zero-tolerance ideology from The War on Drugs became the basis for addressing school discipline and the results have been catastrophic. A growing body of evidence has emerged over the past forty years for what happens when zero-tolerance policies shape and guide school discipline and are used as the sole means for creating a safe and secure learning environment- it’s ineffective (Giroux, 2003; Heitzeg, 2009; NAACP, 2005; Skiba & Knesting, 2002). A plethora of research exists on the influence of implicit and explicit biases of teachers (Carter et al. 2017; Peterson et al., 2016), poverty (Low SES) (Skiba et al., 2002), and zero-tolerance policies along with the overuse of suspension and expulsion (Skiba et al., 2006; Skiba et al., 2011) on the disparate outcomes of minorities in school. However, the literature is not as robust when examining this phenomenon from the principal’s perspective. A sad reality that exists in our nation’s public schools is that the earliest casualties of this current reality are in Pre-K (NAACP, 2005). For secondary schools, these young minorities enter middle and high school with negative attitudes towards schooling, dwindling hopes of graduating, and increasing distrust in the educational systems that are supposed to create a pathway to success, not jail. This research is important because these findings have costly ramifications far beyond the classrooms and school walls.

Degree Date

Summer 8-15-2020

Document Type


Degree Name



Education Policy and Leadership


Dr. Watt Les Black

Second Advisor

Dr. Alexandra Pavlakis

Third Advisor

Dr. Frank Hernandez

Subject Area


Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License