Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Type

Dissertation (799 registration)

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

David Kupferman


discipline, suspension, exclusion


Over several decades, what has come to be known as the discipline gap has been widely studied and well-documented. The discipline gap, or, the difference in rates of referrals, consequences, and exclusions exists for many marginalized populations and has been linked to the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon and, furthermore, to achievement gaps in educational outcomes. In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights identified 43 school districts across the state who show significant discipline disparities. This study explored the issue in one of those school districts, seeking to identify causes and implications of the trend in order to make policy recommendations to improve student outcomes. Through analysis of discipline referrals, exclusions, and school district policy, alongside interviews from various stakeholders including teachers, building and district administrators, school security staff, parents, and students, the study illuminated existing disparities, identified potential sources of disparate discipline, including evidence of cultural mismatch, bias, and colorblind racism, and made recommendations for policy and practice changes that could lead to better outcomes for marginalized populations within the school district.



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