Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education


College of Education and Human Services

First Advisor

Stead, Graham

Subject Headings

Education, Education Policy, Psychology


Relationships play a central role of human development by fostering connection and growth in individuals (Josselson, 1992). Adolescence is a stage of development in which relationships are perhaps most integral because they help youth navigate the changes that come with this developmental phase. Teacher-student relationships are one of the most influential relationships for youth because teacher-student relationships impact students’ academic achievement and educational experience (Ellerbrock et al., 2015; Wilkins, 2014). There are many factors that contribute to positive teacher-student relationships. An area of research that has not gained as much attention regarding teacher-student relationships is discipline in schools. High schools are moving away from zero-tolerance discipline policies but are faced with a new set of challenges regarding the enforcement of the disciplinary protocol. The present study sheds light on how high school discipline policies impact the teacher-student relationship using a social constructionist paradigm and a basic interpretative qualitative design. Research questions were: a) How do teachers navigate any ambiguities surrounding the school discipline protocol? b) What role does inconsistency of enforcement of discipline policies play in the teacher-student relationship quality? And c) How do discipline policies impact the teacher-student relationship from the perspective of both teachers and students? Results indicate that inconsistent enforcement of these policies is impacting the teacher-student relationship rather than the discipline policies themselves. Implications for counseling psychology, limitations of the study, and recommendations for future research will be discussed.