Date of Conferral





Human Services


Barbara Benoliel


Disproportionately high rates of out-of-school suspension and expulsion of African American children represent an ongoing issue in the U.S. public school system. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory was used as the theoretical framework for this multiple case study. The research question focused on the perceptions, perspectives, and experiences of a purposeful sample of 7 high school principals and what they believed were the reasons for persistently high rates of out-of-school suspension for African American students. The principals represented Title I and non-Title I schools located in urban, rural, and suburban regions of a southern state. Data from individual interviews and archival data were drawn from the U.S. Department of Education, Georgia Department of Education, and Georgia's Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The data were manually coded and analyzed for common themes. Analysis revealed that disrespect between students and teachers was the most common reason for disciplinary referrals for African American students and that there was a need for more positive student–teacher relationships, parental involvement, and the use of alternative methods including Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Social-Emotional Learning Programs (SEL). This study may contribute to social change by informing policy makers and indicating potential strategies to support student achievement.