Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in School Leadership


Center for Leadership & Learning


College of Education

Committee Chair

Dr. John Freeman

Second Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Gordon

Third Committee Member

Dr. Catherine Nichols

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Tennille Lasker-Scott

Program Director

Dr. John Freeman

Dean of Graduate College

Dr. Jeff Robertson


The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate why African American female students are being “pushed out” of learning environments in public schools. This study attempted to answer the central question: According to the “lived experiences” of African – American female students in Arkansas, what are the perceived factors contributing to the disproportionate number of African American female students receiving serious disciplinary consequences in public schools? Eleven African American female students associated with three school districts in Eastern Arkansas fit the following criteria: student in grades 10-12; a female student; self – identified as being African-American; received education in a traditional and nontraditional school setting; had experienced out-of-school suspension, in-school suspension, and expulsion. The semi-structured questions were conducted face-to-face in with in-depth dialogue. Five major themes emerged from the conversations. The first theme was the Impact of a Rough Living Environment. The second theme was Traumatic Experiences. The third theme was Home Support, which is broken down into two subthemes, Lack of Home Support and Consistent, Positive Home Support. The fourth theme that emerged was Racial Resistance to Leaders / Teachers. The fifth theme emerging from the interviews was Use of Disciplinary Action which is broken into three subthemes: Minor Nonviolent Infractions, Minor Violent, and Weapon Infractions, and Major Violent and Weapons Infractions. The conclusions derived from the study were: 1) Living conditions and the level of support for high needs African American female students in low performing schools xii foster a sense of hopelessness regarding the importance of their educational pathways; 2) High-needs African American female students understand racism is prevalent, but they do not accept failure as an option for they have developed and embraced a renowned fight to prove society wrong despite all the reforms and laws created for “permission to fail”; and 3) High needs African American female students recognize there must be consequences for their infractions, but do not accept being overly disciplined to cause more harmful lived experiences, but instead demand schools have people who have an ear to listen and a voice that is slow to speak.