Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Teaching and Learning

Committee Chair

Brian R. Horn


An over reliance on punitive discipline methods for addressing wrongdoing in schools has caused educational leaders to pause, and consider their alternatives. The enforcement of zero-tolerance policies and the use of corresponding strategies like detentions, suspensions and expulsions, are no longer proving effective. These antiquated efforts focus only on the rules that were broken and the deserved punishment, failing to actually repair relationships and recognize root causes.

In 2014, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated, “The need to rethink and redesign school discipline practices is long overdue.” Restorative discipline has emerged as an effective tool that responds to wrongdoing. This approach offers an alternative model that provides a respectful focus on accountability and the reparation of harm. The emphasis of restorative discipline is to recognize individual needs and to promote collaboration, cooperation, and problem solving.

This dissertation provides voice to the real-life work of student deans within a large high school setting as they redesign discipline practices to reflect a restorative model. Captured throughout the research are the personal anecdotes and experiences that have resulted in moments of success, hesitation and thoughtful consideration. Findings provide a detailed analysis of the implementation process, as well as a thorough examination of the largely problematic and antiquated use of zero-tolerance policies in education. Conclusions are also drawn to highlight the potential benefits the restorative justice model may have on school climate and how other schools can better prepare themselves for the challenges of implementation.


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