Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Public Health

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Education is often positioned as the great equalizer in the United Statesѡ cure all for many social ills, from poverty, to family instability, to exposure to violence. However, disadvantaged students tend, on average, to get a lower quality education. One example of a barrier that impedes educational equity is the discipline gap, or the disproportionate rate of exclusionary discipline like suspension and expulsion experienced by students with disabilities and those from historically disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups. Removing a student from class for punitive reasons puts them at greater risk of academic disengagement, a diminished sense of belonging and support in the academic environment, and additional suspension in the future. All of these consequences may also act as intermediaries between exclusionary discipline and its less proximal outcomes, including lower academic performance, increased risk of dropout, and greater likelihood of interacting with the juvenile justice system. This dissertation applies a public health lens to the discipline gap, examining determinants, outcomes, and interventions. Following a grounding in important context and concepts, I use secondary data from the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection, along with the tools of social epidemiology, to take an intersectional approach to examining three common risk factors of the discipline gap: race, sex, and disability status. With the fuller understanding of the risk faced by student sub-populations, I then use secondary data from the Education Longitudinal Study:2002 to apply a life course perspective to the outcomes of the discipline gap by looking at how suspension in secondary school is related to voting behavior as an adult. Finally, borrowing from a popular framework for examining health policy, I use data from 15 interviews with school district leaders and advocates to study the barriers and facilitators that influenced school district leadersՠdecisions to ban OSSѯr notѩn response to a community advocacy campaign. I close with a comprehensive reflection on the implications of our three studies, both individually and collectively.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Ross C. Brownson

Committee Members

Alexis E. Duncan, Shenyang Guo, Odis Johnson Jr., Matthew W. Kreuter,