Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Nadia Behizadeh

Second Advisor

Dr. Michelle Zoss

Third Advisor

Dr. Joyce King

Fourth Advisor

Dr. David Stovall

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Behm Cross


The school-to-prison nexus (STPN) disproportionately targets African American students for school suspension and expulsion, which increases their risk of future incarceration (Heitzeg, 2016). The nexus metaphor describes how students transition from education spaces to the criminal justice system through punitive policies such as zero tolerance discipline (Meiners, 2007), and practices of criminalized control and over-surveillance that reinforces prison-like school structures (Stovall, 2016). Thus, interrupting the social injustice of the STPN calls for a collaboration between K-12 schools and university-based teacher education programs that prepare classroom teachers. In this qualitative narrative inquiry study, I examine the victorious narratives of three African American men who traversed K-12 education and incarceration spaces and seek higher education as an act of agency and resistance to the long-term disenfranchisement of the STPN. Drawing on a constellation of theoretical frameworks including critical race theory, the carceral state, and experience, I gathered their stories to shift the narrative around the STPN and to inform critical praxis in teacher education programs.