Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Jose Castillo, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Don Kincaid, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Linda Raffaele Mendez, Ph.D.


educational equity, school discipline, positive behavior interventions and supports


Despite decades of efforts to racially integrate schools and the recent accountability movement, U.S. students’ access to equitable education remains elusive. Research demonstrates that discipline procedures disproportionately remove racial minority students from the classroom, creating a “discipline gap.” Racial disparities in discrete disciplinary infraction types (e.g., disruption, aggression) have shown nuanced patterns across groups and school levels. Moreover, the relationship between school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports (SWPBIS) – a framework for promoting positive behavior and preventing conflict – and the discipline gap is unclear. This investigation explored racial/ethnic disparities per infraction type (e.g. disruption, verbal abuse) and the relationship of SWPBIS implementation fidelity to these referrals using multilevel logistic regression analyses. Participants were 40 elementary schools receiving PBIS technical assistance and the 24,512 students served by the schools. Findings of disciplinary disparities largely were consistent with previous studies with similar methods. Compared to White peers, Black students were overrepresented in office discipline referrals (ODRs) across all infraction types while Hispanic students were underrepresented in Aggression referrals and other racial/ethnic minority students were underrepresented in Miscellaneous referrals. SWPBIS implementation fidelity demonstrated a significant negative relationship with the overall ODR rate and was significantly related to infractions for Aggression; however, no evidence was produced to support the notion that SWPBIS produces more equitable discipline practices. Implications for the research and practice of culturally responsive behavior supports are discussed.