Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Special Education - General Curriculum (Ed.D)



Committee Chair

Dr. Melissa Driver

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Kate Zimmer

Second Committee Member

Dr. Iván Jorrín Abellán


In this phenomenographical study, fifteen students with disabilities from one middle-grades setting were recruited to explore the qualitative different ways they experience and conceive of exclusionary discipline (i.e., in-school suspension (ISS), out-school suspension (OSS), and detention) and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). The participants engaged in interviews and produced two (2) visual representations to investigate the following research questions: (1) How do students with disabilities experience and conceive of school discipline?; (2) How do students with disabilities experience and conceive the implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS); and (3) In what ways can voices of students with disabilities help transform school discipline and PBIS implementation to meet their desired learning environments? An outcome space with seven categories of descriptions emerged. Findings suggest that students collectively held negative perceptions of exclusionary practices, and their responses revealed low efficacy of punitive discipline. In theory, cycles of frustration-aggression appeared to be associated with student experiences of exclusionary discipline and punitive threats (i.e., “you have silent lunch!”), which seems to result in student apathy and undesirable teacher-student relationships. Negative teacher behaviors were also observed such as yelling and belittling comments, including low fidelity of PBIS implementation. Lastly, many student participants expressed that they desired calm learning environments that offer freedom, play, and opportunities to engage in dialogue for reconciliation. Recommendations for future research, including student suggestions for school improvement, and implications to educational practice are provided.