Campus Location

Dallas Campus (Online)

Date of Award


Document Type



Educational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Robert Voelkel

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Scott Self

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Rick Zomer


Current research about the school to prison pipeline has focused on the impact of zero-tolerance policies in public education on historically marginalized student populations, especially school exclusionary practices of minority and learning-disabled students. This transcendental phenomenological study extended the understanding of disciplinary alternative education programs’ place in the school to prison pipeline trajectory. According to critical race and social justice leadership theories, the investigation and exposure of the public education components leading students into the school to prison pipeline are violations of student civil rights that require scrutiny and actionable public education reform focused on equity and inclusion.The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the experiences and perspectives of five teachers and six leaders in Colorado who have served students placed in disciplinary alternative education programs to provide suggestions for improvements that will address the school to prison pipeline. Study findings reaffirmed previous research about subjective discipline referrals as the catalyst to the school to prison pipeline yet indicated that disciplinary alternative education programs currently act as expulsion education opportunities in response to the school to prison pipeline data. Consequently, public education district leadership needs to create and implement progress monitoring for bias and discrimination in their discipline matrices and referral processes, as well as provide effective staff training around multitiered support systems for the intervention of high-risk students’ needs and behaviors, culturally responsive instructional practice, and restorative justice in exchange for punitive discipline.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.