Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Andrea M. Wilson


Nationwide concerns include disproportionate discipline referrals and suspensions of certain student groups and the associated negative student outcomes. The state's department of education cited a school district for suspending Black students with disabilities (SWD) at more than 3 times the rate of all other student groups; yet, the complex nature of the disciplinary disproportionality in this district was unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate how student-related characteristics including race/ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, and school location, may predict number of discipline referrals, types of discipline referrals, and types of suspensions issued to students. Guided by the theory of behaviorism, this nonexperimental, ex post facto study examined archival discipline data for the 5523 students who received at least 1 office referral during the 2015-2016 school year. Chi-square analyses showed SWD had higher numbers of referrals, received referrals for subjective offenses, and were more likely to receive out-of-school suspension than no suspension or in-school suspension compared to nondisabled students. Regression analyses indicated students who were Black, male, identified as SWD, or in secondary school were at significantly greater risk of office referral and exclusionary discipline than other student groups. By understanding the patterns of discipline outcomes associated with student-related characteristics, school administrators within the local district are now able to select and implement evidence-based practices that may reduce exclusionary discipline, allowing all students to participate equally in school. Over time, these practices may lead to positive student outcomes including higher school engagement and increased graduation rates.