Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Kevin Brady

Committee Member

Ed Bengston

Second Committee Member

Kara Lasater


Discipline in Rural Schools, Disproportionate Discipline, Equity in Discipline, Student Discipline


African American students are disciplined in schools at disproportionately higher rates than White students. This trend was first reported in 1975 in a report by the Children’s Defense Fund and since that time, has been highly studied. However, most research has been conducted in urban or suburban schools, with less known about disproportionate discipline in rural schools. This study utilized an explanatory sequential mixed methods approach to explore disproportionate discipline between African American and White students in five rural schools located in Southeast Arkansas. The research questions were as follows: (1) How is discipline disproportionality perceived in specific rural schools from the principal’s perspective? and (2) What factors are most influential in explaining discipline disproportionality in specific rural schools from the principal’s perspective? Quantitative data consisting of discipline infractions and actions for the 2017-2018 school year were first collected and analyzed to establish if disproportionate discipline was occurring and if so, to what degree. Interviews were then conducted with the principal of each school to further understand their perspectives. Results indicated that African American students were being disciplined at higher rates than White students in all five schools, with one school having significantly lower rates of disproportionality than the others. In answering the research questions, results suggest that these principals have varied perceptions of disproportionate discipline in their schools. The most significant factor causing disproportionate discipline in these schools based on their perspective was a cultural mismatch between teachers and students, followed by student trauma and mental health issues. Based on analysis of data, specific recommendations are made for principal actions and principal preparation programs to better prepare leaders in identifying disproportionate discipline in their schools and effective methods to address it.