Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Black preschool students are disproportionately suspended and expelled from school compared to their same age White peers. The purpose of this study was to explore the perspectives of preschool educators in a single county located in a southeastern state to gain insight about the racial disproportionality in school discipline. Critical race theory was used as a framework to further understand educators’ perspectives concerning the influence of race and culture on student discipline and examine educators’ perspectives concerning the contextual factors that contribute to exclusionary school discipline. This was a basic qualitative study with semistructured interviews of 11 preschool educators. Participants included current or former preschool educators who have been directly involved in the exclusionary discipline referral or decision-making process. Interview transcripts were examined using open-coding techniques with thematic analysis. Participants reported that socioeconomic level, students’ unaddressed mental health needs, and a lack of family support were significant contributing factors to exclusionary school discipline. None of the participants identified race as a contributing factor to their own disciplinary decisions or behavior management. Mental and behavioral health training and support, as well as cultural awareness training, is recommended to help educators better respond to student’s needs and to manage needs that are interpreted as behavior problems. Further recommendations include that schools adopt culturally relevant behavior systems. This study contributes to positive social change by helping to inform both researchers and practitioners about the necessity of addressing student needs that impact the racial disproportionality in school discipline and the need to increase both supports and educator training for responding to those needs.