School discipline: punishing more than bodies

Brent, John James
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University of Delaware
The topic of school discipline and punishment has received growing attention from scholars, politicians, and larger public. Prior work often explores the rise of exclusionary policies, punitive practices, and a buildup of school security. Explanations for this trend often focus on large-scale incidents, the perpetuation of social inequalities, students' perceived racial/ethnic threat, and shifts in modern governance. Little work, however, has considered the nexus between school discipline and youths' ontological motivations and identity constructions. By using a mixed methods approach, I examine the relationship between school discipline and students' identity work influenced by institutional and peer expectations as well as being informed by community and cultural experiences. Overall, I find that schools are disciplining more than misconduct. Quantitative and quantitative data show that perceived identities shape students' disciplinary involvement. Additionally, data indicate that selective disciplinary conditions influence students' and staffs' identity work. This study more critically finds that schools may be disciplining disadvantaged youth into cultural compliance while maintaining social, economic, and political suppression by using selective punishment practices.