School Discipline Practices: Language Differences in Office Discipline Referrals

Date of Award


Degree Name

Specialist in Education (Ed.S.)


Department of Counselor Education and Human Services


Advisor: Elana Bernstein


The present study examined the language used in Office Discipline Referrals (ODRs) when describing student behavior, and how this language differs by student racial group (non-Hispanic white students and students of color). A sample of (n = 86) ODR's for one school district were reviewed using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Qualitative analysis yielded five themes in language use, including: behavior-specific language; subjective; additional elaborations; non-specified incident; and interpretation of intent/impact. Quantitative analysis further indicated that behavior-specific language was the most prevalent theme in the ODRs written for both student groups, and attributional language was the least prevalent of the six identified themes. Language coded as Additional Elaborations appeared disproportionately in the ODRs written for students of color. Overall, the ODRs reviewed in this study demonstrated equitable language use across student racial group, as well as similarities in actions taken prior to referrals and referrals written for major and minor incidents. Implications for school discipline practices and potential future research are discussed in light of these synthesized findings.


Education, office discipline referrals, disproportionate discipline, language differences in office discipline referrals

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Copyright © 2018, author