Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Sheryl Cowart-Moss, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Ogletree, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

DaShaunda Patterson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Nick J. Sauers, Ph.D.


The disparate rate of young children who are removed from early learning programs due to behavioral concerns was the concern addressed by this study. Through the tenets of hermeneutic phenomenology, the researcher sought what is known and not yet known about school leaders’ experiences with early childhood expulsions and suspensions, with a particular focus on their perceptions of social-emotional learning as an intervention means for preschool children. Hermeneutics is a research methodology aimed at producing rich, textual descriptions of individuals’ experiences to connect with the experiences of others in a collective sense. Qualitative data were collected from in-depth personal interviews and ongoing reflective notes. The analytical methods were guided by the aim of uncovering emerging themes to obtain meaning making from the participants regarding their lived experience. The identified themes answered the research questions, giving voice to school leaders experiencing the phenomenon. The findings speak to the need for specialized training for schools to address the behavioral and developmental needs of young children, policy and funding support for social-emotional learning in K-12 education, and efforts to bridge the potential research-to-practice gap.