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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Negative stereotypes characterizing Black males as prone to causing trouble can lead teachers to punish misbehaving Black boys more harshly than their White peers. Awareness of unfair discipline practices has been linked to future disciplinary infractions among Black males, hinting that some Black males may engage in defiant behavior in response to unfair discipline. Despite the documented links between awareness of unfair discipline and future disciplinary infractions among Black males, questions remain as to (1) the types of disciplinary practices from teachers that students perceive as fair and unfair; (2) the psychological processes that motivate Black male behavior after experiencing unfair discipline; and (3) whether these psychological processes differ from those that motivate White male behavior. Across three studies, the present research explores these questions by asking Black and White men to recall the type of treatment from teachers that they perceived as fair and unfair (Study 2), as well as how they would have perceived and responded to different scenarios describing instances of either fair and unfair discipline from teachers in middle and high school (Studies 1 and 3). Qualitative results from Study 2 highlights negotiable (i.e., a collaborative effort between a teacher and their pupil to discuss and analyze how and why a particular situation arose from all perspectives) and non-negotiable (i.e., teacher ignores the pupil’s explanation for the infraction) discipline as two contrasting practices that men viewed as fair and unfair, respectively. Quantitative results from Study 3 indicated that unfair (non-negotiable), compared to fair (negotiable) discipline from teachers triggered negative emotions associated with reputation threat (i.e., embarrassment, shame, anger, and sadness), which in turn predicted future defiant behavior among both Black and White men. Furthermore, the extent to which unfair discipline from teachers was attributed to racial bias also predicted greater negative emotions and defiant behavior for Black, but not White, men. Together, these findings shed light on a process through which unfair disciplinary practices may motivate defiance from students via negative emotions among both Black and White students; as well as the unique role that race bias attributions have on Black students’ perceptions of unfair discipline.


First Advisor

Nilanjana Dasgupta

Second Advisor

Kirby Deater-Deckard

Third Advisor

Linda R. Tropp