Date of Conferral
As a result of zero tolerance policies, a significant percentage of students who experience exclusions from schools also experience negative outcomes such as high dropout rates, academic failures, and encounters with juvenile justice agencies. While several researchers have found a relationship between unintended consequences of exclusions and juvenile delinquency, few have examined this phenomenon from the perspectives of juveniles who experienced exclusions. Guided by the framework of operant conditioning, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand how students experienced exclusions from school. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants who experienced both exclusions from schools and involvement with juvenile delinquency. Of the 30 potential participants who initially agreed to participate in the study, 26 actually participated. Data collection and analysis included capturing and grouping emerging themes and patterns from face-to-face interviews and observations that revealed the essence of how juveniles experienced exclusions from schools. According to participants, failure on the part of administrators to listen to their accounts of events that led to referrals for disciplinary action resulted in avoidable suspensions. Participants' narratives further highlighted the prevalence of disruptive behavior in schools throughout the United States. School administrators and policy makers should not only use data from this qualitative study to inform disciplinary policies and practices, but they should also consider input from students and other community stakeholders who are impacted by those decisions. These findings will promote the understanding that effective disciplinary practices are needed to meet the educational needs of all students. Even participants in this study were concerned about the impact that suspensions had on their education.