Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D


The purpose of this proposed dissertation is to examine the relationship of students’ skin color and gender to school disciplinary decisions for African American children. While skin tone bias or colorism is frequently studied, limited research has been completed about its prevalence in American public schools during the discipline process. For example, school suspension leads to higher rates of absenteeism, lower academic achievement and higher chances of incarceration. Even students who receive an office referral and return to c lass minutes later miss pertinent instruction time. This study aims to: 1) add to the body of literature about this topic, 2) shape political discourse about future school discipline policies and procedures, and 3) assist school divisions in designing professional development to bring awareness to the idea of colorism in the field of education.The literature shows that dark-skinned African American children are disciplined at a higher rate than light-skinned African American children. A student’s skin tone and gender could office referrals and suspension rates. Using implicit social cognition and Critical RaceTheory (CRT) as the theoretical framework, this study will seek to understand the school personnel’s disciplinary decisions based on the skin tone and gender of students that may occur outside of conscious awareness or control. This study will add to the current body of literature by gaining a better understanding of factors that can predict how school personnel discipline African American students of varying skin tones, compared to white students.


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