Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational Policy and Leadership

Content Description

1 online resource (x, 325 pages) : forms.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Kathryn Schiller

Committee Members

Teniell Trolian, Kathie Spring


critical race theory, disability critical race theory, mental health, policy, situation awareness, threat assessment, School discipline, Student suspension, Student expulsion, School violence, Right to education

Subject Categories



Providing students with equitable and safe learning experiences is a fundamental right; however school districts grapple with balancing student learning and student safety. In the Brown vs the Board of Education (1954) decision, the court identified education as a basic public responsibility and a principal instrument to facilitate understanding cultural values and adjusting to a normalized environment in pursuit of later professional training (Justia Law, 1954). The court went so far as to indicate that the chance of a child succeeding in life is not likely if they are denied an education (Justia Law, 1954). The purpose of this quantitative study is to examine the relationship between various interventions and the rate of student removal from the educational setting. The National Center for Education Statistics conducted the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) for the United States Department of Education which is the primary source for data in the K-12 educational setting. The SSOCS gathered information from 4,800 public school principals through a survey on topics including school practices and programs, parent and community involvement at school, school security staff, school mental health services, staff training and practices, limitations on crime prevention, incidents, disciplinary problems and disciplinary actions, and other school characteristics related to school crime (SSOCS:2018). Survey data was collected during the 1999–2000, 2003–04, 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, 2015–16, and 2017–18 school years. This study analyzed the data set for the 2017-2018 school year. School shootings gain much media attention however empirical data suggests that the incidents are rare. Data collected from the SSOCS:2018 was analyzed to consider the total number of disciplinary actions recorded for use or possession of a firearm or explosive device, use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device, and distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs/alcohol. The interventions of providing training for staff and students around identifying and preventing behavioral concerns, conducting regular threat assessment reviews, and providing mental health supports were considered as they related to the rate of removal from the educational setting for disciplinary actions. School characteristics such as locale, level, crime rate, restrictive practices, size, law enforcement, discipline problems, incidents and those reported to the police were also considered. Administrators and teaching professionals are often called to make rapid decisions to ensure student and staff safety. Zero tolerance policies which mandate an immediate action for a violation of school rules has been common practice in schools since 1994 with the adoption of the Gun-Free Schools Act (Skiba & Peterson, 1999). The theoretical frameworks for this study drew upon Disability/Critical Race Theory (Dis/Crit) and Endley’s Situation Awareness. Endsley’s framework explores the need to have systemwide practices to ensure that rapid decisions are made while ensuring that all stakeholders and outcomes are considered. Disability Critical Race Theory considers anti-discrimination practices in the educational setting by challenging the boundaries of racism and ableism (Annamma et al., 2018). Data compiled and analyzed from the SSOCS:2018 survey indicated that training for student/staff did not have a statistically significant relationship with the rate of removal from the educational setting for the use or possession of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device or for the distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs/alcohol. Approximately 48% of schools reported threat assessment teams that met minimally one time a month however this intervention did not have a statistically significant relationship with the removal of students for formal disciplinary actions. Results indicated that schools were less likely to remove students if threat assessment teams were not present. Approximately 63% of reporting schools had no mental health supports in the educational setting and results indicated no statistically significant relationship with removal for disciplinary actions. School characteristics such as disciplinary problems, crime rate in the area, and location consistently resulted in no relationship where the use of law enforcement, school size, school level, incidents and those reported to the police consistently resulted in statistically significant relationships. If disciplinary actions were recorded for the use of a weapon other than a firearm or explosive device, no identified intervention affected the outcome. This study was conducted to consider the policy implications for school districts as they seek to allocate limited resources to support student learning. The Constitution of the United States of America requires that all children be provided the opportunity to an equal education no matter their race, ethnic background, religion, or sex, or whether they are rich or poor, citizen or non-citizen (Cooney et. al., 2012). Riveting accounts of school shootings and unsafe learning environments have become platforms for change which do not consider the complex nature of student development and culturally responsive practices. This study challenges the notion that schools are unsafe and aims to recognize indicators that create balance in the system for all students and stakeholders.

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