Children with disabilities, Discipline of children, School discipline, School violence, Special education


In the aftermath of school shootings, safety in educational institutions became a national concern. The Zero Tolerance policy was designed to remove students who posed serious and or imminent threat to the school environment. It was hoped that the institution of this policy would allow schools to better police student behaviors through the use of tough disciplinary actions, and to ensure a safer learning environment for all. However, one of the latent consequences of establishing a broad set of directives was to result in the differential treatment of some minority groups such as special education students. To date, there exists little research that tests the efficacy of the zero tolerance approach in reducing school violence or its effect upon special education students who exhibit unique and separate characteristics from the general student body. Some of the behaviors that are beyond their control can impede their learning, but are even more often seen as falling under the guidelines of the zero tolerance policy, which in turn subjects this group to a number of disciplinary actions previously not utilized to address their specific needs. To address the potential impact this policy has on students with learning and emotional behavioral disorders this study analyzes data from a sample comprising of 2,736 total schools, reported over 4 different time periods, 1999-2008 originally collected by the School Survey on Crime and Safety. This study examines the relationship between various school characteristics, the proportion of special education students in a school, and the use of the disciplinary actions as a means of controlling behaviors that could be undesired but may not pose a serious threat to the educational institution. iv The results indicate that presence of students identified as “special education students” was strongly related to the number of disruptive behaviors reported. The increased frequency of those reported behaviors was also found to be significantly related to the use of suspension and expulsions as disciplinary actions in a school. Further multiple regression analysis yielded data demonstrating the nature of the relationships between the presence of special education students in a school, the frequency of disruptive behaviors reported, and the increased use of disciplinary actions.


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Graduation Date





Cook, Ida


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Applied Sociology; Domestic Violence








Release Date

May 2013

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic