Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

David Merolla


Research shows African American students are disproportionately suspended and expelled in K-12 institutions throughout the United States due to zero tolerance policies. Additionally, several scholars argue the most restrictive school discipline policies were implemented in the state of Michigan. The purpose of this study is to investigate African American students' and parents' perceptions of school discipline in primarily black high schools to determine the following: a) How do black students and parents perceive school discipline, b) How do black students and parents perceive school safety measures, and c) How do black student and parent perceptions of school discipline differ by social class, gender, and disability status. The results of this study suggest black students and parents perceive school

discipline as an impediment to academic achievement, a hindrance to parental employment, a contributor to “black educational flight”, and as a precursor to undesired social outcomes (i.e. school dropout, police contact, and substance abuse). The results also suggest the informal social norms that govern interpersonal communication in impoverished African American communities (i.e. the code of the street) may pervade primarily black high schools to become the Code of the School. Moreover, out-of-school suspension and expulsion may function as ineffective deterrents to physical altercations and school violence because under the Code of the School black students may seek physical altercations and school discipline to gain respect and an elevated social status in the academic setting.