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‘Tuck in That Shirt!’ Race, Class, Gender, and Discipline in an Urban School

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This article explores how schools reproduce race, class, and gender inequality through the regulation of students' bodies. Using ethnographic data from an urban school, I examine how assumptions guiding bodily discipline differed for different groups of students. First, adults at the school tended to view the behaviors of African American girls as not "lady-like" and attempted to discipline them into dress and manners considered more gender appropriate. Second, school officials tended to view the behaviors of Latino boys as especially threatening, and members of this group often received strict, punitive discipline. Third, school officials tended to view the behaviors of white and Asian American students as nonthreatening and gender appropriate and disciplined these students less strictly. To conclude, I discuss the importance of viewing race, class, and gender in schools simultaneously and the problems associated with disciplinary reform in education. © 2005 by Pacific Sociological Association. All rights reserved.
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... On the other hand, scholars have argued that much research on race and school outcomes has overlooked the unique experiences of female students (e.g., Annamma et al. 2019;Carter Andrews et al. 2019;Morris 2016;Wun 2018), and recent evidence has shown that racial disparities in school discipline are greater among girls than boys (Lehmann and Meldrum 2021;Morris and Perry 2017). Theoretically, this literature supports the notion that the standards associated with Whiteness and femininity are closely intertwined, and punitive school sanctions can be imposed upon minority female youth, even for minor infractions, as a way to address perceived rowdiness, defiance, and other "unladylike" behavior (Morris 2007:506; see also Blake et al. 2011;Morris 2005). ...
... Though data limitations prevent explorations into the mechanisms underlying these patterns, the findings align with those from prior literature on the racialized and gendered experiences of school discipline among Black female students. Indeed, qualitative research (e.g., Annamma et al. 2019;Morris 2005;Wun 2018) has revealed that educational institutions work to impart "traditional standards of femininity in which girls are expected to be docile, diffident, and selfless" (Blake et al. 2011:93), and school staff are apt to respond punitively when Black female students fail to live up to this White, middle-class model. The current study's findings suggest that these same behavioral expectations are likewise strictly enforced among female students who belong to Caribbean ethnic subgroups, thus potentially highlighting the role of colorism in schools' imposition of gender-specific codes of conduct. ...
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Objectives: This study explores the effects of racial/ethnic identity on youths’ likelihood of receiving a suspension from school as well as whether these disparities further vary by gender. In light of recent demographic shifts within the U.S., alternative theoretical rationales emphasizing such issues as “exotic threat,” “stereotype lift,” and “reflected race” present conflicting expectations regarding whether and how the disadvantages in school discipline experienced generally by minority students might extend to youth in certain Hispanic and Caribbean subgroups. Methods: We analyze data from the 2018 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, which provides a large statewide representative sample of youth enrolled in Florida public middle and high schools (N = 54,611). Results: Youth who are Black/non-Hispanic, Haitian, West Indian/Caribbean, and Dominican are most likely to receive a suspension from school, and these effects are particularly pronounced among female students. Mixed evidence of Hispanic-White differences in suspension is found, except for a heightened risk among Puerto Rican youth. Conclusions: Some of the findings imply the importance of skin tone and appearance over subgroup-specific perceptions of cultural or criminal threat. However, the disadvantages experienced by Puerto Rican students may represent an institutional response to their unique status as recent migrants to Florida.
... Students often are treated harshly by school police, SROs, and other school personnel, and these interactions frequently conclude with the assignment of various punishments (Kupchik 2010;Simmons 2017). These sanctions are handed out for a variety of more serious behaviors such as getting into fights or drug possession, but they also may be imposed for minor rule violations or perceived "disrespect" or "willfulness" (Morris 2005). While some student punishments can involve moderate revocations of certain privileges, they often consist of exclusionary sanctions that remove students from the classroom and learning environments (Hirschfield 2018;Welch and Payne 2018a), which somewhat parallels the removal of convicts from society to jail or prison (Finn and Servoss 2015;Kupchik 2016). ...
... Closely mirroring the patterns seen in prior work on racial inequalities in school punishment, this study's estimates account for a wide array of individual-and schoollevel controls, including socioeconomic status, academic achievement, delinquency and illicit substance use, low self-control, school racial and ethnic composition, school size and type, and school-level disciplinary policies. Given that the analyses account for differential patterns of misbehavior and many correlates thereof, these results might suggest the possibility that when making suspension and expulsion decisions, school staff may be inadvertently relying on implicit biases that characterize Black youth as particularly "disruptive" (Watts and Erevelles 2004), "aggressive" (Morris 2005), crime-prone (Pickett and Chiricos 2012), and destined for the school-to-prison pipeline (Bowditch 1993;Okonofua and Eberhardt 2015). Consequently, the misbehavior of Black students might be considered by teachers and administrators to be especially deserving of punitive disciplinary responses. ...
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Using the cumulative disadvantage theoretical framework, the current study explores whether school suspension and expulsion provide an indirect path through which race and ethnicity affect the likelihood of experiencing arrest, any incarceration, and long-term incarceration in adulthood. To address these issues, we use data from Waves I, II, and IV of the Add Health survey (N = 14,484), and we employ generalized multilevel structural equation models and parametric regression methods using counterfactual definitions to estimate direct and indirect pathways. We observe that Black (but not Latinx) individuals are consistently more likely than White persons to experience exclusionary school discipline and criminal justice involvement. However, we find a path through which race and Latinx ethnicity indirectly affect the odds of adulthood arrest and incarceration through school discipline. Disparate exposure to school suspension and expulsion experienced by minority youth contributes to racial and ethnic inequalities in justice system involvement. By examining indirect paths to multiple criminal justice consequences along a continuum of punitiveness, this study shows how discipline amplifies cumulative disadvantage during adulthood for Black and, to a lesser extent, Latinx individuals who are disproportionately funneled through the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
... Stemming from the disproportionate use of exclusionary discipline in schools to handle incidents of violence involving non-White youth (Morris & Perry, 2016;Skiba et al., 2011), Black and Hispanic youth could be fearful of violence because they suspect that teachers, administrators, and school security personnel would fail to protect them from victimization and would respond punitively to violent incidents that they are involved in. School authorities are more likely to misinterpret the behavior of Black and Hispanic youth as aggressive and trouble-making than White youth's behavior (e.g., Morris, 2005;Ferguson, 2001;Becker, 2010). Thus, Black and Hispanic youth may fear an anticipated victimization because they worry about being blamed for the incident. ...
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This study examined racial and ethnic differences in adolescents' fear of attack or harm at school after adjusting for differences in violent victimization prevalence. We analyzed 49,782 surveys from 35,588 adolescents who participated in the NCVS School Crime Supplement (1999-2017). We tested whether differences in fear are attributable to youths' (1) experiences with non-criminal harms, (2) indirect exposure to crime and violence at their school, or (3) school security and disciplinary practices. We then examined trends in fear and victimization by race/ethnicity over a period of crime decline to determine how fear has changed relative to victimization across the racial/ethnic groups. In the pooled sample, Black and Hispanic youth had 93% and 74% higher odds than White youth of expressing fear at school, after adjusting for violent victimization and demographic characteristics. After accounting for non-criminal harms, exposure to crime and violence, and school security/discipline, Black and Hispanic youth had only 39% and 44% higher odds than White youth of expressing fear, respectively. Mediation analyses indicated that the explanatory variables explained half (50.2%) and one third (33.7%) of the difference in the odds of fear between Black and Hispanic youth compared to White youth. Analyses over time indicated that fear declined more for Black and Hispanic youth than White youth, despite similarly-sized declines in victimization across race/ethnicity. Altogether, the results suggest that racial and ethnic differences in fear of criminal victimization partly reflect differential experiences and environments at school. We consider the implications of our findings in terms of understanding how the school context influences fear differently across students' racial and ethnic identities.
... As Stovall (2016), argues, "the punishment enacted upon Black bodies in school is understood as normal, right, and good, " (Stovall, 2016, p. 2, referencing Wun, 2014. That minoritized children, in particular, need "structure" and "discipline" is a taken-for-granted assumption among educators (Freedman, 2003;Morris, 2006). Black students are suspended and expelled at significantly higher rates than their white peers (Anyon, et al., 2014;Skiba et al., 2014;U.S. ...
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In this paper, we seek to critically address the enactment and impact of social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum and implementation in early childhood and elementary (PK-5th) classrooms. Specifically, we argue that SEL, as frequently operationalized, is a dehumanizing process that seeks to assimilate non-dominant children into dominant ways of being while concurrently seeking to enforce compliance and normalize children to oppressive structures. SEL is often seen as a "nice" form of classroom management , perfect for a field dominated by "nice" white women who see their work as apolitical and neutral rather than political and rooted in the maintenance of white supremacy (Galman et al., 2010). As such, it makes sense that PK-5 contexts, deeply rooted in a "Just be Kind" sense of morality as opposed to one rooted in justice and student empowerment (Turner, 2019), turn to SEL programs as "fixers" of student behavior. But SEL programs are often anything but "nice. " Despite presenting as humanizing and kind, the focus on compliance makes it inherently dehumanizing.
... Though these perceptions of and standards for rule-breaking are socially constructed, the consequences for students are both material and psychological (Watts and Erevelles 2004;Simson 2013). When school adults label students as deviant or violent for breaching White norms, exclusionary and punitive practices can serve as form of racialized social control that mediates access to educational opportunity (Bell 2020;Morris 2005;Watts and Erevelles 2004). ...
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Although in-school suspensions may be viewed as less severe than out-of-school suspensions, both discipline consequences limit students’ access to learning opportunities and are negatively associated with a range of educational outcomes. Moreover, if sending students out of class perpetuates the same racial disparities as sending them home, this practice does not realize the equity goals of discipline reforms over the last decade. Our study draws on Critical Race Theory and QuantCrit to understand racial discipline gaps across in-school and out-of-school suspensions using data from students and schools in one large district. Results of multilevel regression models indicate similar racial disparities in both suspension types, suggesting neither approach is equitable. These findings illustrate the limits of race-neutral policies in mitigating exclusionary discipline gaps. Addressing the thorny issues that contribute to racial disparities will likely require greater resources for high quality implementation of school-wide culture change initiatives that are explicitly anti-racist.
... Instead, other participants share their own classroom management challenge stories in response, including Sheila, a White teacher, who writes, "I believe that the problem you have explained is one that most of us have faced at one time or another, especially at the high school level." Sheila goes on to talk about a rule at her school of "'no hats, do rags, headbands, scarves, etc.'"-headgear often associated with communities of color (see Morris, 2005, for a discussion of the relationship between Black and Latino boys' popular clothing styles and school punishment), which Sheila does not mention. Like Gladys, Sheila attempts to intervene when she sees students breaking this rule, only to be disregarded: "It is a real problem when they [the students] have just walked past one or more other staff members and no one says anything. ...
Article
Research exploring suspension and expulsion practices suggests that teachers may play a key role in perpetuating racial disproportionality in school discipline by interpreting student behavior through racialized and racist lenses and by viewing the behavior of students of color as an affront to their authority, resulting in more frequent punishing of Black and Latino students. The problem may be compounded for novice teachers, who are likely to teach in high-poverty, high-”minority” schools where discipline is a pronounced concern for educators.
... Therefore, the findings of this study might not reflect additional issues such as race, ethnicity, and sexuality that could impact girls from different socioeconomic backgrounds. For instance, research shows black and white adolescent girls place different levels of emphasis on physical appearance to determine their sense of self and personal value (Gordon, 2008), and inequalities in school dress codes are found to be more prevalent among black students (Morris, 2005). Also, the impact of the dress code on the LGBTQ student community deserves scholastic investigations because of the unique experience of body image within this marginalized group (Edwards & Marshall, 2020). ...
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Grounded in objectification theory, this study was conducted to uncover adolescent girls’ experience of dress regulations in US public schools. We conducted in-depth personal interviews with thirteen high school girls to explore internal, interpersonal, and contextual factors that might aggregate or alleviate objectifying conditions. Three overarching thematic categories emerged including (1) dressing as a life skill, (2) experiencing a sexually objectifying environment, (3) coping with the sexually objectifying environment. Eight subthemes captured under these thematic categories depicted how the school dress code is experienced and embodied by adolescent girls in their daily lives. Our findings demonstrated how the methods of school dress code enforcement and sex education promote a sexually objectifying environment in which girls feel physically and psychologically unsafe. Also, the findings of this study revealed that girls experience body shame, self-objectification, and powerlessness through dress code enforcement and sex education in school. Implications are discussed.
... Studies in the international literature indicate that there are different rules and expectations for male and female students (George, 2015;Morris, 2005). In this sense, based on the literature and findings of the study, it can be said that teachers' attitude as to the discipline is unequal to the detriment of boys. ...
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The aim of this study is to examine the role of primary schools in reproducing gender discrimination based on teachers' views. In the study, the discriminatory factors arising from "the everyday practices in the classroom and in the school, the curriculum, and the individual characteristics of the students" were discussed from the perspective of views regarding gender. Interviews were conducted with 13 teachers from 6 schools with different socioeconomic characteristics in the central districts of Mersin in the 2017-2018 academic year in the study. The data were analyzed using qualitative descriptive analysis method. As a result of the study, regardless of socioeconomic characteristics, primary school education and gender relations are in a cyclical structure as mechanisms that affect each other, and teachers can convey discriminatory codes to students by being affected by their own student experiences and the traditional gender perspective of the society in which they were raised. On the other hand, it was revealed that teachers associate the source of the gender discrimination with out-of-school factors and are not aware of their responsibilities in this issue. In general, it can be said, based on the results of the study, that the processes and practices in primary school create gendered prejudices in The Reproduction of Gender Discrimination and the Daily Practices of Primary Schools in Turkey 257 | P a g e the minds of students and gender discrimination is maintained throughout primary school education.
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This article considers a style of civility discourse centered on perceived “rudeness” of youth, particularly youth of color (YOC) and its use as a political strategy that positions YOC as both uncivil and lacking agency. It is constructed as a racialized concept of rudeness that positions YOC as unreliable narrators and problem students whose voices can be dismissed when it comes to educational policy that directly impacts them. I refer to this discourse as “rudeness rhetoric.” It takes on a key role in the (re)production of the school as a political site of white supremacist citizen production. I focus on Arizona politicians’ mobilization of rudeness rhetoric as justification for legislation targeting Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Mexican American Studies (MAS) program for termination. I rely on triangulation of multiple sources and methods, including observation of meetings and the trial concerning the constitutionality of anti-MAS legislation, plaintiff evidence, documents and public statements by politicians, and online commentary concerning MAS. I find that, while politicians and the Arizona Department of Education engaged accusations that MAS promoted anti-white racism, they used rudeness rhetoric to frame the program as harmful, charging that it produced rude students based on protests politicians associated with MAS. Focusing on “rude” YOC allowed politicians to reframe legislative attacks on ethnic studies and move debate over MAS away from racial animus in the legislation. Rather than one explosive moment in which the rudeness rhetoric performed its political work, it snaked throughout multiple venues from political arenas to the courtroom to the media.
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There is much research on race and schooling focused on punitive discipline, but little attention is paid to how teachers and administrators use minor policies to coerce students to “willingly” adopt hegemonic ideologies, particularly the ones that correspond to Whiteness. In this work, Whiteness is conceptualized as a social concept in which forms of knowledge, skills, and behavioral traits are cultivated for the sake of maintaining White supremacy as the dominant ideology in the social organization of structures and people. My work explores how teachers and administrators use school dress code policies, specifically the policies regarding hairstyles, to indoctrinate Black students into Whiteness. I argue that schools are sites intended to racialize Black students into White society. I argue that dress codes that regulate hairstyles are a form of White hegemony. I ground my work in Antonio Gramsci and John Gaventa’s theoretical views of hegemony to conceptualize how administrators and teachers invoke forms of domination and coercion to force Black students to transform their appearance for the sake of upholding White ideals of professionalism. I offer a critical race conceptual model that articulates how power is enacted upon Black students to further a White aesthetic. The conceptual model highlights how teachers and administrators assign racialized social meanings to different hairstyles and unconsciously or consciously reinforce the idea that Black hairstyles hinder Black students’ performance in the classroom and reduce their future employment opportunities. Contemporary examples of Black students’ experiences in school are cases that validate this model. I argue that dress code policies about hair that incur minor infractions are destructive to Black students’ sense of identity and reinforce Whiteness as the normative frame of civil society.