Brianna L. Kennedy

University of Utrecht

Utrecht University, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Heidelberglaan 1
Utrecht, Utrecht
3584CS |  Visit Personal Website

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Dr. Kennedy’s research centers on under served K-12 students who do not demonstrate traditionally defined academic and social success. She has published numerous articles addressing the racial discipline gap in the United States and is currently developing projects regarding social justice issues in schools in the Global North. Before pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban Education at the University of Southern California, Dr. Kennedy taught early adolescents in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Kennedy-Lewis, B. L. (2014). Using critical policy analysis to examine competing discourses in zero tolerance legislation: Do we really want to leave no child behind? Journal of Education Policy, 29(2). 165-194. doi:10.1080/02680939.2013.800911
Abstract: The increasing use of zero tolerance discipline policies in the USA has led to a ‘discipline gap,’ in which minoritized students receive harsher and more frequent suspensions and expulsions than their peers from dominant cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Though disciplinary decisions are made by educators at the school level, mandates regarding the disciplinary infractions that must result in exclusionary discipline are made at the federal and state levels. Using a theoretical framework that distinguishes the discourse of safety from the discourse of equity, this critical policy analysis examines how state-level zero tolerance legislation portrays educators, students, and school discipline and reflects neoliberal influence. Findings show that these policies narrowly define schools’ roles as developing academic, but not behavioral, skills. Students are portrayed as rational actors who deserve the punishment meted out by educators when students choose to behave disruptively; and educators have absolute power and their decisions regarding student discipline are reflected as being consistent and objective. Nevertheless, legislation in some states also acknowledges students’ needs for a more holistic approach to their education and mandate continued education and support services to help them after they are removed from school. An example from one California district illustrates findings and demonstrates how both discourses are inadequate in challenging neoracism.
Kennedy, B. L., Murphy, A. S., & Jordan, A. (2017). Title I middle school administrators’beliefs and choices about using corporal punishment and exclusionary discipline. American Journal of Education, 123(2), 243-280. doi: 10.1086/689929
Abstract: This grounded theory study of how Title I middle school administrators determine students’ punishments was developed using interviews with 27 Florida administrators from schools allowing corporal punishment. Administrators’ choices were shaped by their upbringings, their experiences as parents, their job requirements, the expectations of students’ parents, and fears of reprisal. They expressed simultaneous desires to develop the child while deterring future misbehavior. They described the outcomes of their decision making as emotional work that entailed contradictions and compromises. To encourage positive preventive and responsive school discipline practices, policies must address administrators’ misconceptions about ineffective practices by providing both pressure and support for change.
Kennedy, B. L. 2011. "The Importance of Student and Teacher Interactions for Disaffected Middle School Students: A Grounded Theory Study of Community Day Schools." Urban Education 46 (1):4-33.
Abstract: Students who are expelled from school often demonstrate the need for alternative learning environments that respond to their academic disengagement as well as their behavioral challenges.Teachers in such environments contend with a variety of student needs while attempting to engage students in the learning process.This grounded theory study examines student and teacher interactions in community day school (CDS) classrooms in one large, urban school district in the southwest. Through semistructured interviews and observations, the researcher develops an emerging theory that describes the interactions between teachers and students. Interactions vary in nature depending on student and teacher characteristics, their self-definitions and beliefs, and the influence of support staff.Various interactions precede specific student outcomes, which can be both intended and unintended. This article explains the interplay between the categories listed above and gives concrete examples from classrooms about how student and teacher interactions can lead to, or impede, growth for both students and teachers.
DOI: 10.1177/0042085910377305
Kennedy, B. L. 2011. "Teaching Disaffected Middle School Students: How Classroom Dynamics Shape Students’ Experiences." Middle School Journal 42 (4):32-42.
Abstract: Zero tolerance policies have proliferated nationwide with little attention being paid to the education of student offenders after expulsion. The dearth of knowledge regarding the school experiences of this population disproportionately affects early adolescents because they are most frequently subjected to exclusionary discipline. This case study examines classroom practices at one alternative middle school in California designed to serve this population of students. Findings show that teachers' implementation of instructional practices, classroom management, and rapport building mutually reinforced each other to either facilitate or hinder teachers' daily goals. Furthermore, a focus on punitive discipline in this context reinforced ineffective teacher practices.
Kennedy, B. L. In Press. "What Happens After Students Are Expelled? Understanding Teachers’ Successes and Failures at One Alternative Middle School." Teachers College Record.
Abstract: Background Federal zero tolerance policies require the exclusion of students exhibiting violent behaviors, with the intent of maintaining a safe school environment for other students to learn. In California, legislation has been passed which provides for the placement of expelled students in community day schools (CDSs). This study examines the daily practices of teachers in one CDS in order to begin to build a literature base about these contexts. Drawing from the theory of pastoral care, the study examines the way teachers implement casework, classroom management, and curriculum and instruction. Data collection for this study occurred at Vista Hermosa Community Day School (VHCDS), which serves at least 100 district students throughout the course of a given school year and represents a typical urban CDS. During the semester that data collection occurred, enrollment ranged from 21 to 52 students. All of the teachers, administrators, counselors, and support staff at Vista Hermosa agreed to participate. In comparison with the district and state, students at Vista Hermosa are disproportionately male and from low-income, ethnic minority backgrounds. Conversely, teachers are disproportionately Caucasian, though also disproportionately male. This study utilized a multiple case study approach by first analyzing individual teachers' practices at one urban CDS and then generalizing across classrooms to draw conclusions. Seventy-five hours of school-based observations, semi-structured interviews with nine teachers, 17 students, 14 counselors and administrators, and relevant documents provided data for analysis. Codes for this study drew directly from the theoretical framework of pastoral care. Case reports for each teacher provided material for interpretive analyses. The creation of narrative case summaries finalized the data reduction process and then became material for cross case analyses. Data show that casework, curriculum, and classroom management mutually reinforce each other in educating persistently disciplined students at this school. This finding is significant because it suggests that teachers' success or failure in CDS contexts depends on their attention to, and successful implementation of, all three areas of practice. Typically, each of these constructs stands alone in discussions regarding teaching and learning. This study suggests that CDS teachers need access to high quality, relevant professional development tailored to the CDS context. Providing such support as a prevention strategy to teachers in comprehensive schools rather than after students commit disciplinary offenses may successfully preclude their exclusion from comprehensive schools.

Substantive Focus:
Education Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation PRIMARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation SECONDARY