Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Administration

First Advisor

Hytten, Kathy


Because of a perceived increase in school related violence, a political reaction occurred in Missouri that led in 1997 to the Missouri Safe Schools Act. This new law significantly changed school disciplinary policy and allowed administrators to move large groups of students to alternative education programs, or expel them to the streets. The purpose of this qualitative study was to learn from students who attended at least one year in an alternative education program about their experiences. I interviewed 26 former students and another 14 former students entered into the conversation by posting their thoughts on a Facebook site for alumni of a specific alternative program. The 40 former students shared common stories that indicated their confusion, a misuse of power by the school district, and a lack of due process surrounding the events that led to their suspensions. At the same time, they shared many stories of relationships, kindnesses, and empathy that they experienced from the alternative school teachers and administrators. Results point to the need for families to educate themselves (and sometimes resist) arbitrary decisions made by school personnel, and the importance of teacher and administrator selection for alternative school programs.




This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.