Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Christia Spears Brown


In the U.S. Black students, particularly Black boys, receive more out of school punishments, are punished more frequently, and are punished for more subjective behaviors than their White peers (Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002). This phenomenon is referred to as disproportionate discipline and is an early precursor to the disproportionate number of Black men and boys incarcerated in the U.S. Disproportionate discipline begins as early as preschool, and continues throughout elementary, middle, and high school (Gregory & Fergus, 2017). Perceptions of discrimination greatly impact children’s school involvement, school belonging, and educational outcomes (Brown, 2017, for review). However, little is known about elementary children’s perceptions of discriminatory discipline practices. In the current study, I investigated elementary school children’s (6-11 years old; Mage = 7.75; SD = 1.31) perceptions of disproportionate discipline, utilizing a mixed method approach. Participants (n = 63; 63.5% White, 6.3% Latinx, 9.5% Black; 6.3% Asian, and 14.4% preferred to self-describe) were shown four vignettes describing different misbehavior of a White or Black child and a teacher punishing them. Results suggest that children in middle childhood perceive disproportionate discipline as discrimination. Qualitative analyses also suggest that Black children are more likely to be perceived as culpable for their misbehavior and less likely to be perceived as accidentally misbehaving compared to White children. Children’s cognitive development also informed their perceptions of teacher discrimination. Important implications for these findings are also discussed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)