"It’s All About the Relationships”: Educators’ Rationales and Strategies for Building Connections with Students to Prevent Exclusionary School Discipline Outcomes

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Graduate School of Social Work


Classroom behavior and environment, Education policy, School context, Teacher–adolescent relationships, Teachers


This qualitative study identified nonpunitive and nonexclusionary discipline strategies used in schools with low out-of-school suspension rates. Interviews and focus groups with 198 educators from 33 low-suspending schools in a large urban district were conducted to learn more about the approaches that were essential to their school’s success. Data were analyzed with inductive and deductive approaches to identify themes regarding efficacious approaches across schools. Relationship building was noted as a key strategy in reducing exclusionary discipline outcomes and racial disparities in out-of-school suspension. Specific relationship-building strategies and the rationales behind these practices are described, including home visits, greetings, morning meetings, advisory periods, increased adult visibility in and out of school, and positive contact with families.

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