Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Council on Anthropology and Education
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists
Primary Theme: Teaching
Secondary Theme: Race
Students of color experience school discipline in ways that are both qualitatively and quantitatively profoundly different from their white peers. Beginning as early as preschool, students of color receive disproportionate numbers of detentions, suspensions, and expulsions (U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 2014); numerous scholars have noted how such disproportionalities result in school push-out, funneling students into the school-to-prison pipeline (e.g. Burdge, Licona & Hyemingway, 2014; Rios, 2011). Schools with high percentages of students of color are more likely to use exclusionary discipline and less likely to implement restorative justice practices (Advancement Project, 2010; Payne and Welch, 2015). This differential treatment is not a response to increased misbehavior; rather, studies suggest that teachers watch students of color more closely (Gilliam, Maupin, Reyes, Accavitti & Shic, 2016) and (mis)interpret their actions through racialized and gendered lenses (Ferguson, 2001). Given evidence that disproportionate discipline arises out of routine school practices, it is urgent that we better understand how discipline and classroom management are enacted on a day-to-day and moment-by-moment level.
This panel explores how disciplinary practices both stem from and create racialized meaning systems in schools. Together, the studies on this panel consider: How do teachers respond differently to students of different races, and how do neoliberal emphases on standardization and accountability exacerbate such differences? How do students’ experiences of “discipline” extend beyond behavior, defining “correct” use of school opportunity structures? Finally, how do disciplinary actions shape students’ identities and teach students lessons about who does—or does not—belong?
This panel provides an opportunity to look deeply into the racialized nature of school disciplinary interactions. It includes studies conducted in four separate states, at grade levels ranging from kindergarten to high school, in urban, suburban, public and charter schools. These distinctions allow an exploration of how classroom interactions are informed by both local contexts and broader meaning systems.
Our panel includes four fifteen-minute presentations followed by fifteen minutes of commentary by the discussant. This commentary will not only highlight themes across the studies, but will also imagine how schools might embrace inclusive, supportive and racially just practices. This leaves 30 minutes for questions and discussion.
Racial disparities in school discipline have been thoroughly documented over nearly two decades of research. While such studies are critical in drawing our attention to the problematic ways in which race and discipline intersect, a much deeper and more nuanced conception is needed if we are to understand how such disparities are created, what their myriad consequences are, and how they might be addressed. These presentations dig deeply beneath the surface, capturing the seemingly minor interactions that cumulatively create such disparities. They broaden the urban, Black-and-White way in which racial inequality is often addressed, exploring disparities in suburban contexts or between Black and Latinx students. Finally, they position students themselves as agents who co-create, critique, or resist racialized discipline. In doing so, they make a much-needed contribution to our understanding of the behavioral and relational aspects of school life.