A Qualitative Study of the Implementation of Texas’s Ban on Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade Suspensions



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Background: In response to the overuse of exclusionary discipline to manage behavior problems among young Texas students, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 674 (HB 674) in 2017. The bill prohibits out-of-school suspension (OSS) in Grades Pre-Kindergarten through second grade, unless the student brings a weapon, alcohol, or drugs to school, and it requires all elementary schools to implement positive behavior supports in their schools. Anecdotal evidence suggests that educators are unsure about how to implement HB 674 and that they need alternatives to OSS. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the implementation of HB 674 in school districts around the Houston area. The study explains how HB 674 made its way into practice through interviews and it made sense of what teachers and administrators have to say about it through a qualitative interview study. Methods: This study is a qualitative interview study of teachers and administrators in districts around Houston. I compared how administrators and teachers across the city are implementing HB 674. Teachers and administrators were selected using the snowball sampling method. Data was collected through virtual interviews. I interviewed campus teachers, campus administration, and district administrators. I asked questions about their knowledge of HB 674, their experience with the policy, and how they interpreted the policy. Data analysis in qualitative research mainly consists of coding. I used the theoretical framework, sensemaking theory, to guide my coding. I used Dedoose, a computer software program that enables coding to be applied electronically and then given back to the user in spreadsheet form. When analyzing data, I used a five-step process that involved organizing and preparing the data for analysis, reading and/or looking at all the data, coding the data, generating themes, and representing the themes. Findings: Opinions among teachers and administrators ranged widely when it came to HB 674. There were several factors that influenced the teachers’ and administrators’ sensemaking about HB 674. I found that social factors played an important role for both teachers and administrators when it came to their sensemaking, especially informal networks. I also found cognitive factors to be very important. Teachers’ and administrators’ background, existing knowledge, and their beliefs about suspension and behavior management influenced how they made sense of the new law. Moreover, I found differences between novice and experienced teachers. Lastly, the organizational culture of a campus played an important role in how teachers and administrators made sense of the law. Conclusion: This study sought to understand how teachers and administrators in public schools in the Houston area made sense of HB 674. I found a lack of understanding of the new law among the teachers, a lack of understanding of the potential impact among district administrators, and the response options were left open for interpretation for both teachers and administrators. Future research should focus on the salience of the change that people are to make sense of; if something is not salient, people may engage in a different sensemaking process, or not engage at all.



Out-of-school suspensions, Primary grades, Teacher sensemaking