Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Molly Dawes


The intent of school discipline policies, practices, and procedures is to shape student behavior to create an optimal learning environment for all students. However, school discipline falls short of this goal because it is rife with race/ethnic and gender disparities. These disparities contribute to inequitable academic and life outcomes that plague, in particular, African American children. This dissertation addresses these disparities through a thematic literature review, a quantitative analysis of inequities in rates of lunch detention, and a mixed methods analysis of subjectivity in reasons for lunch detention.

The literature review explains the problematic aspects of school discipline, the racial disproportionalities therein, and the ties between excessive discipline and negative outcomes for children. Implicit bias and peer contagion are explicated and offered as potential factors leading to the continuation of these racial inequities. Recommendations for ways schools can minimize the presence and impact of inequitable school discipline are offered.

The first empirical study examines racial and gender disparities in rates of lunch detention. Lunch detention is a ubiquitous under-studied lower-level discipline that directly precipitates upper-level disciplines. Results from ANOVA revealed that African American and male students received significantly greater rates of lunch detentions than their White, Hispanic/Latino, and female peers.

The second empirical study uses quantitative and qualitative analyses to explore subjectivity in teachers’ reasons for assigning lunch detentions. Students were stratified into lunch detention frequency groups, and then rates of subjective reasons were analyzed using ANOVA regarding group affiliation and race/ethnicity of the students. This study found that 65% of lunch detentions were given for subjective reasons, and that students in the higher frequency groups received lunch detentions with the highest rates of subjectivity. Race/ethnicity could not be effectively analyzed because so few White students were in the higher frequency groups. The qualitative analysis found themes of teacher negativity/frustration, student talking, student avoidance of work, and student aggression/threat of violence to be illustrative of subjectivity in both group and race/ethnic lunch detention disparities.

The papers that constitute this dissertation form a cohesive pathway through which race/ethnic and gender disparities in school discipline can be more fully understood.