Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Baber, Ceola Ross


The purpose of this qualitative instrumental case study was to understand perceptions of key stakeholders regarding disproportionate exclusions of African American males under zero tolerance policies. Data was gathered through in-depth individual and focus group interviews with key stakeholders (administrators, teachers, students, and parents/caregivers) in an urban high school in central North Carolina. Four themes emerged from microlevel and macrolevel analyses of the data: (a) understanding zero tolerance, (b) impact of zero tolerance, (c) exclusions, and (d) policies and rules. Findings from this study revealed similarities and differences in the stakeholders’ perceptions regarding disproportionate exclusions of African-American males. While stakeholders agreed that zero tolerance is necessary for various reasons, they differed on the effectiveness of zero tolerance and the disproportionality of suspensions and expulsions of African-American male students. Some of the participants from each group felt that the students were disciplined unfairly, but other participants rejected this notion. Students and parents/caregivers acknowledged they were aware of the school’s policies and rules but they also indicated they had little or no knowledge of the zero tolerance policy before the students were suspended. The students believed their behavior changed for the better after the suspensions. A majority of stakeholders perceived that administrators, teachers, and parents/caregivers should have input on the consequences assigned for violations under zero tolerance. The results also showed that most of the stakeholders would take advantage of an opportunity to make recommendations to the school district for changes in the application and implementation of the zero tolerance policy.