Date of Award

Summer 5-16-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership for Learning Dissertations


Educational Leadership

Committee Chair

Dr. Jen Wells

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Albert Jimenez

Second Committee Member

Dr. Chinasa Elue


As an alternative to zero tolerance discipline policies that focus on punitive, exclusionary, and often predetermined consequences for a disruptive behavior, many educators in schools across the United States have started implementing restorative practices (RP) in their classrooms. RP focus on building relationships and classroom community. Educators implement RP as a preventative behavioral strategy for community building, but also as a responsive strategy to handle conflict in order to repair harm and restore relationships. Current research on RP include quantitative studies, many resulting in a reduction of exclusionary discipline, or qualitative studies with participants in middle and high school. This qualitative, phenomenology study draws specifically on elementary-aged students with disabilities, exploring students’ perceptions of acceptance and belongingness in classrooms that utilize RP. Data collection methods include individual and focus group interviews and observations to gain student perspective of feelings of belongingness and acceptance within their classroom community. Data from these research methods were triangulated and themes of effortless friendships, positive classroom climate, belonging and relationships, and social skills emerged. The findings from this study have implications for equity focused intervention practices for elementary students with disabilities.