Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Education-School Counseling (M.Ed.)

Degree Program

College of Education

First Advisor

Elizabeth Stolle

Academic Year



Research shows that students who are at-risk for suspension or expulsion lack a sense of belonging at school. A sense of belonging is an essential contribution to success at school and in life, and therefore, students who lack belonging are unable to reach their full potential. Students who are suspended or expelled are also more likely to drop out of school and be incarcerated as adults. Despite this research, many schools still have zero-tolerance policies in place that result in suspension and expulsion of students. Instead of teaching students the skills they need to be successful, suspension deprives students of their education and makes them feel disconnected. Further, research shows that exclusionary discipline results in a significant discipline gap between White students and students of color.

Part of a school counselor’s role is to implement small group counseling interventions. Small group counseling is effective in cultivating a sense of belonging in students by allowing them a safe place to talk about their experiences and learn new skills. Group interventions involve working with six-to-eight students to promote their academic, social/emotional, and/or career success. This project provides a small group intervention for school counselors to implement. It specifically targets a diverse, adolescent student population with the ultimate goal of reducing discipline referrals and increasing a sense of belonging at school. Although small group counseling does not necessarily replace exclusionary discipline, it can allow for an alternative solution and promote positive behavior outcomes.