Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Practice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Theresa Coble


Keith Miller

Lisa Overholser


The school to prison pipeline is a phenomenon fed by exclusionary discipline practices that increase the likelihood that a student will have an interaction with the juvenile or criminal justice system at some time in their life; this phenomenon disproportionately affects Black students. Understanding the problem is key to slowing down the school to prison pipeline. This study of a school district in Missouri explores questions about how interpersonal relationships, implicit bias awareness, and school policies influence the learning environment, and how those factors relate to school discipline, which ultimately can lead to the school to prison pipeline. Drawing data from exploratory multiple case study interviews, numerous themes emerged. Relationships are important when making changes in schools. Staff were forced to develop plans to support students by building relationships, managing teaching expectations, and developing alternatives to suspension. The new policy positively affected law enforcement officers’ interactions with students. The study has important implications for school practitioners; namely policy change is an effective method to lessen school suspensions thus decreasing the school to prison pipeline. The implications for law enforcement officers working in schools is that they can also work to reduce the school to prison pipeline through improved relationships with students and families. They are an invaluable resource to students, families, and school staff to support students and to prevent them from entering the criminal justice system later in life.