Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education PhD, Joint with San Diego State University


School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Eligio Martinez Jr.

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Sarah Garrity

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

J. Luke Wood

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Thomas Luschei

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Michelle DeJohnette


behavior, Black boys, critical race theory, discipline, preschool, suspension

Subject Categories

Early Childhood Education | Education


Preschoolers are more likely to be expelled than children in any other grade, at more than three times the rate of school-age children. Further, this phenomenon is racialized and gendered. Boys have been expelled at 4.5 times the rate of girls, and Black boys have been twice as likely to be pushed out of their preschool program than their peers (Gilliam et al., 2016). Although Black children comprise only 18.9% of the preschool population, they have been 48% of the total preschool children who received one or more out-of-school suspensions. This unequal suspension rate is one of the most important factors hindering academic progress for Black children, particularly Black boys, and sets them on the path to the preschool-to-prison pipeline. This research study built on existing theory showing teachers’ beliefs and biases are a possible factor in K–12 contexts (Gregory et al., 2010; Rocque & Paternoster, 2011), further developing understanding about racial and gendered disparities in preschool discipline. Using the tenets of critical race theory and whiteness as property, this study critically examined how the construct of whiteness has influenced preschool teachers’ beliefs about discipline and how they have implemented discipline. Findings suggested school discipline maintains white hegemonic school culture and has negatively affected Black children disproportionately. Building on whiteness as property (Harris, 1993), specifically the right to exclude others, I concluded discipline, as it currently exists in early childhood education, is a form of white property that must be dismantled.