Date on Capstone


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, EDD

Committee Chair

Carpenter, Bradley

Committee Member

Ingle, William Kyle

Committee Member

Dawson-Edwards, Cherie

Committee Member

Vanderhaar, Judi

Author's Keywords

school-to-prison pipeline; discipline gap; urban schools; Black girls; school leaders; Critical Race Theory


This capstone project includes three distinct studies that explore issues of race, discipline and education. Existing literature underscores the over disciplining of students of Color. Research indicates programs like Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) are successful in decreasing disproportionate discipline for minority students in urban schools. No studies have addressed urban school leaders make sense of PBIS within the racialized context of their schools. The purpose of the first study is to explore ways principals make sense of PBIS policy in the racial context of their schools. This study also explores the role of racialized discourses in principal Sensemaking of the racialized context. A collective multiple case study was conducted applying Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Sensemaking Theory (ST) as a way to understand principals’ cognition and action regarding disproportionate discipline in their schools. Data was collected through interviews, district data analysis, and document analysis. Results were interpreted using CRT and ST tenets. Findings indicated that two types of Sensemaking of policy and racialized discourses were exhibited by participants. Five priority areas were identified as implications for research, policy, and practice. The following two studies address race, discipline, and education in regards to the experiences of black girls. The plight of black boys (e.g. high suspensions and drop-outs) has galvanized philanthropic efforts where private and public funding resources have prioritized black males without consideration for the black girls. The second study will add to the limited research on the experiences and perceptions of urban middle school black girls in the school-to-prison pipeline literature. The purpose of this study is to explore perceptions of urban, public school discipline by middle school black girls who are suspended from school. Greater insight into black girls’ perspectives of discipline experiences could prepare better designed learning environments and educational experiences that will help decrease the disproportionate discipline gap. Inquiry into adolescent black girl’s perceptions of discipline centers a student voice in why and how students are pushed from, or jump out of, urban public schools. The final study fills a gap in the literature examining disproportionate discipline in regards to Black girls focusing on the strengths of this population to challenge negative conceptions. The purpose of this study is to discover the strengths of Black girls who have been persistently disciplined in high school. This study was framed as an embedded case study applying the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process in interviews and observations to gain insights into what inspires persistently disciplined Black girls to continue in education. The results incorporate the first two stages of AI: discover and dream. The researcher discovers core strengths of three Black girls within the conceptual framework of Strengths in Communities of Color: trust, love, spirituality, and resistance. After analyzing the data, this framework was revised to include independence as an additional strength. These strengths were considered in dreaming what is possible in research, policy, and practice.

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