School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Jose A. Puga


CoP, communities of practice, critical theory, hermeneutical phenomenology, OSS, out-of-school suspensions, African American students, Black students, K-12, deficit terminology, deficit life outcomes, typology


Education | Leadership Studies


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the lived experiences of African Americans who had served at least two out-of-school suspensions (OSS) during their K-12 epoch but whose life outcomes did not reflect the deficit outcomes that researchers often use to describe that population. The central research question asked: What are the lived experiences of African Americans who had served at least two OSS and persisted to the completion of a post-secondary program? Guiding questions were implemented to understand further the phenomenon: How do African Americans believe their identity has been positively or negatively influenced by OSS? and How do African Americans bracket the experiences of the behavioral occurrence and the resulting OSS? Wenger’s theory, Communities of Practice (CoP), served as the study's theoretical framework. Participants were selected through social media recruitment campaigns. The study included 10 African American participants who served at least two OSS. The data collection methods utilized were questionnaires, interviews, and journal prompts. Hermeneutical analysis was used to analyze the data. Research findings revealed that the suspension behavior and resulting OSS experience can be ascertained in a person’s identity by examining their lived experience. Implications for policy and practice based on study outcomes include a common definition of significant disproportionality and a method for gleaning intent that can be used as data for OSS decision-making.