Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Carrie Oser

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward Morris

Abstract

Educators face multiple forms of misbehavior in the classroom on a regular basis. Quantitative data in the academic literature indicates that some subgroups, particularly minority students, lower income students and boys, face higher rates of disciplinary actions than their peers. Whether this indicates that those students misbehave more often, whether their actions are perceived differently by educators, or whether they are punished more harshly for their misbehavior are issues that are not well-settled by academic research. This research project addresses this gap in the literature, by addressing how the overrepresentation of subgroups may occur and by addressing the decision-making process in general, regardless of a student’s social characteristics.

This qualitative research project provides an in-depth account of daily life at a rural high school in Kentucky, illustrating instances of misbehavior within the classroom and the various methods that teachers employed to control the misbehaving students. This project gives voice to the teachers, giving consideration to the factors that impacted the decisions they made with respect to consequences for misbehavior.

This research project triangulates observations and interviews with disciplinary data from the school to provide a detailed picture of misbehavior and the resulting consequences. The teachers at this school typically gave students ample opportunity to rectify misbehavior before moving to more serious sanctions and considered consequences for most misbehavior on an individual basis. Nonetheless, minority students were overrepresented among students referred to administrators for misbehavior, indicating the possibility of a cultural mismatch between white educators and students of color. At the administrative level, consequences were fair and consistent, and no evidence of discrimination against any subgroup was demonstrated.

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