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Undergraduate Research Showcase

Undergraduate research is the exploration of a specific topic within a field by an undergraduate student that makes an original contribution to the discipline.

A Recommended New Direction for In-School Suspension for OCPS


Maria Thompson has spent her life using personal experiences to help people around her heal and overcome triggers that stem from childhood or adolescent trauma and provide them with support when their life becomes overwhelming. As a person who suffered through her own shares of childhood trauma, she knows how much of a daily process it is to be dedicated to healing and understanding of the importance in recognizing certain triggers. While her future career will focus primarily on children and adolescents, she will make it her business to be of service to adults as well as she has shared her testimony to adults within her circle of family and friends as well as her church community. 

She knows there is no single approach that serves every person, so she is educating herself on good practices that stem from strategic psychological trends and emerging therapies to provide the most support that works for certain situations. Although she has not had experience at the professional level in terms of helping people heal from trauma, simply being a service to others as a mentor/volunteer has helped her gain trust from many as well as given her the practice she will need as a future psychological professional. Her most recent mentoring opportunity was volunteering at an alternative school within Orange County Public Schools. That experience has led Maria to research more into how schools can provide more in terms of mental health care for students, specifically within their in-school suspension programs and how they relate to student's misbehavior as well as stressing the importance behind the benefits in mental health wellness.   

Maria is enrolled in the honors program at Valencia College majoring in Psychology and will be completing her A.A. degree this coming Spring semester. She will continue her undergraduate studies with the transfer to the honors program at the University of Central Florida starting the Fall of 2021 to complete her B.A. in Psychology and take on Pre-Med courses to get into the feild of Psychiatry afterwards. 

Maria currently resides in Seminole County, is married, and has 4 children all while keeping up with her studies and endeavors of becoming a future Pediatric Psychiatrist.  


ABSTRACT:   It is not out of the ordinary that teachers confront or deal with students that may struggle with challenging behavioral issues within their classrooms including aggressive, uncontrollable, or disrespectful behavior toward surrounding peers and staff. Based on the rules and/or code of conduct provided for a particular school or county, students are given certain levels of consequences for their actions that may not be in compliance to the said rules and/or code of conduct. In this paper, the meaning of in school suspension is reviewed, the overview of the P.A.S.S. program is explained in nature, and reasonings of what works and what does not work is given, backed by interviews with teachers and experienced behavioral analysts. There were subsequent findings stating that traditional in school suspension has not shown to be progressive with students that have behavioral issues caused by a mental disorder or traumatic experience. The location this research study was carried out in was that of Orange County Public School Academic Center of Excellence in Orlando, Florida. After great analysis on the content of the data correlated to this research and the reviewed interviews, it has been concluded that teaching personnel were not knowledgeable about how to handle challenging behavior. It was also identified that teaching personnel lacked support from their superiors and needed more training. Moreover, teachers expressed the concerns of their own personal health not being of equal or enough concern. A proposed solution of reforming the curricula of the P.A.S.S. program is given through enforcing PBIS system, providing virtual socioemotional learning through Mawi Learning Program to students, and suggestions from the administrative personnel at OCPS ACE and the experienced behavioral analysts that were interviewed. Developing a brand-new curriculum to include self-development training for students in terms of their behavior in collaboration to holding school personnel accountable for proper training in handling students with difficult behavior is essential to the overall mental health of both the student and the child.


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Faculty Mentor

Dr. Melonie Sexton

Professor of Psychology

Downtown Campus

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