Exclusionary discipline refers to the use of disciplinary processes and policies that removes students from their normal learning setting (Skiba et al., 2018). In-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and zero tolerance policies are often raised when discussing exclusionary discipline. According to Freeman et al. (2018), the statistics on school expulsion and disciplinary removal show that it has increasingly become acceptable in the American school system. Since 1973, the suspension rates have doubled (Losen & Martinez, 2013) with approximately 3.5 million students in public schools suspended in 2011-2012 alone (US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 2014).
Legitimate concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of exclusionary discipline that may lead to an increase in negative outcomes such as low academic achievement and increased school dropout rates (Peguero et al., 2018). Larson et al. (2018) found that increased application of exclusionary discipline approaches leads to increased risk of dropping out of school. The missed school days resulting from suspensions have also been associated with increased risk of developing negative behaviors (Valdebenito et al., 2019). Marchbanks III et al. (2015) found that exclusionary discipline has the "deleterious outcomes on students being held back or dropping out of the school system" (p.69). The study illustrated that students who were frequently suspended failed to advance to the next grade at the same rate as their peers with some eventually dropping out. These findings demonstrate that there is a legitimate case for examining the application of exclusionary discipline approaches and the knowledge of alternative discipline approaches.
Despite the data and the research findings on the impact of exclusionary discipline, the approach is still accepted in the American school system. According to Freeman et al. (2017), exclusionary discipline remains strongly advocated for as they are viewed as tools that are useful in ensuring that discipline is maintained in classrooms as well as learning institutions. The perception that zero-tolerance policies deter potential offenders has been used by the advocates of exclusionary discipline to justify its use in the learning environment (Freeman et al., 2017).
Background of the Problem
According to Bradshaw, Waasdorp and Leaf. (2015), suspensions and other traditional forms of exclusionary discipline have been overused by educators given the ease of implementing the approach and the limited understanding of alternative approaches or outcomes of exclusionary discipline. Educators' understanding of the relationship between exclusionary discipline and learner outcomes is another consideration that should be integrated when evaluating the preference for this approach over other alternatives. A study by State et al. (2019) found that teachers and administrators were not familiar with the relationship between exclusionary discipline and factors such as academic performance, academic achievement, defiant behaviors, and school dropout rates.
According to Mallett (2016), the last four decades have witnessed an increase in the interest in exclusionary discipline. The federal drug policy of the 1980s and the growing concern over the increased violence in schools led to the increased use of zero-tolerance policies in schools (Hitchcock et al., 2017). The federal policies such as the Gun-Free Schools Act that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 further led to increasing the emphasis on expulsion and other zero-tolerance policies (Mallett, 2016). Beyond the federal and state policies that have encouraged exclusionary discipline, school policymakers, counselors, and educators have directly influenced the use of this disciplining approach as they have direct contact with the learners (Fissel, Wilcox & Tillyer, 2018).
National discipline data shows the students that are disproportionately affected by exclusionary discipline have poorer academic performance (Steinberg & Lacoe, 2017). Steinberg and Lacoe (2017) recommended the use of alternative discipline approaches as part of reform (e.g. mentoring, counseling, and dropout prevention and guidance services for at-risk students). Such data shows there is a need to investigate whether discipline approaches other than suspensions can be effectively used in schools (Wolf & Kupchik, 2017). Peguero et al. (2018) recommended that relationship-based approaches can be effective in overcoming the negative outcomes associated with exclusionary discipline. Improved teacher-student relationship is an alternative discipline approach that has been identified as an effective tool for positive behavior change among learners (Curran & Wexler, 2017).
It is not known the perceptions of administrators, counselors, and teachers toward exclusionary discipline, its application, and alternatives. The limited knowledge concerning exclusionary discipline and alternative discipline among the key stakeholders who influence the discipline climate and systems is a legitimate concern on the implementation of effective discipline in schools (Thompson, 2016). The study is important as it does not only evaluate the knowledge of the administrators, counselors, and teachers on the impact of exclusionary discipline on learner outcomes, but also the perceptions of the teachers on the support provided by the institutions to implement discipline alternatives. Teachers, administrators, and counselors are the target population of the study. The sample will be drawn from the Dallas Independent School District with selection criteria of at least 5-year experience in the District or 10-year experience in the profession. They will be studied through interviews and focus groups within their workstation. Teachers, administrators, and counselors in the Dallas Independent School District will be the unit of analysis for the study. The qualitative descriptive study will focus on the administrators, counselors, and teachers' perceptions of exclusionary discipline, its application, and alternatives.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the proposed qualitative descriptive study is to examine the perceptions of administrators, counselors, and teachers toward exclusionary discipline, its application, and alternatives in Dallas, Texas within the Dallas Independent School District. Through identifying and understanding the perceptions of these three stakeholders on the value of exclusionary discipline, the study intends to gain insight on the approaches used in administering exclusionary discipline and alternatives to the approach.
The phenomenon being examined in the study is the perception of education stakeholders towards exclusionary discipline. The study examines how administrators, counselors, and teachers perceive exclusionary discipline and its application in schools. The study investigates the perception of the three stakeholders on the disciplining alternatives of exclusionary discipline.
The research questions for this qualitative descriptive study are:
- What is the perception of administrators, counselors, and teachers towards exclusionary discipline?
- Are administrators, counselors, and teachers aware of the negative impact on exclusionary discipline?
- What insights do administrators, counselors, and teachers have on the application of exclusionary discipline approaches?
- What recommendations do administrators, counselors, and teachers have to either replace or modify exclusionary discipline?
Advancing Scientific Knowledge and Significance of the Study
The current research on exclusionary discipline shows that it has a negative impact on academic performance, grade retention, and school dropout (Marchbanks III et al., 2015). Studies also show that administrators and teachers are not fully aware of the negative impact of exclusionary discipline or alternatives to this form of discipline (Green, Maynard & Stegenga, 2018). Unlike the educators and teachers who might have inadequate knowledge on exclusionary discipline outcomes and alternatives such as mentoring, counselors are adequately trained on socio-behavioral interventions and their outcomes (Vincent et al., 2016). The knowledge divide in the impact of alternative discipline can be addressed by creating an internal climate where all three parties (administrators, teachers and counselors) share information on alternatives (Steinberg & Lacoe, 2017). The exploration of disciplining alternatives is, therefore, effective in advancing knowledge of discipline approaches.
Other than the limited awareness of the impact of exclusionary discipline, the...
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