Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Nicholas Michelli

Committee Members

Terrie Epstein

David Bloomfield

Subject Categories

Educational Leadership | Humane Education


Inequality; Racial Disparity; Student Discipline; Suspensions; Zero tolerance; Socioemotional Impact


Most schools find it challenging to effectively manage disruptive student conduct such as violent outbursts, antisocial behavior, bullying, talking back, and truancy. One management tool utilized by teachers and administrators attempting to quell unruly behavior is exclusion through the use of suspension. Out-of-school suspension rates within the United States have been rising since the 1970’s, with a dramatic increase evident after 2002, with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. The higher use of out-of-school suspensions reflects the growth of zero tolerance policies which mandate predetermined, typically harsh consequences or punishments (such as suspension and expulsion) for a wide degree of rule violations, regardless of accidental mistake, ignorance, or extenuating circumstances. These policies have resulted in student suspensions for a broad array of school code violations ranging from serious infractions such as violent behavior, to less serious infractions such as truancy and dress code violations.

Research reveals gross disparities in the number of out-of-school suspensions experienced by male students, students with disabilities, and students from historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic subgroups, with race representing the most significant factor in determining such inequity. This dissertation will specifically examine disciplinary inequity based upon race, to determine how inequitably applied disciplinary policies, which result in a disproportionate percentage of out-of-school suspensions applied to the conduct of black students, effect the social development and emotional advancement of black high school students attending New York City public schools. This research is intended to raise awareness regarding implicit bias and the prejudicial application of high school disciplinary policies, as well as bring attention to the social and emotional impact of such disparity. These findings will support advocates as they push educators and policymakers to develop and implement equitable alternative methods of addressing student misconduct so as to reduce suspensions while maintaining safe and orderly schools.