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Homeroom Security

School Discipline in an Age of Fear

Aaron Kupchik

Publication Year: 2010

Police officers, armed security guards, surveillance cameras, and metal detectors are common features of the disturbing new landscape at many of today's high schools. You will also find new and harsher disciplinary practices: zero-tolerance policies, random searches with drug-sniffing dogs, and mandatory suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, despite the fact that school crime and violence have been decreasing nationally for the past two decades. While most educators, students, and parents accept these harsh policing and punishment strategies based on the assumption that they keep children safe, Aaron Kupchik argues that we need to think more carefully about how we protect and punish students.

In Homeroom Security, Kupchik shows that these policies lead schools to prioritize the rules instead of students, so that students’ real problems—often the very reasons for their misbehavior—get ignored. Based on years of impressive field research, Kupchik demonstrates that the policies we have zealously adopted in schools across the country are the opposite of the strategies that are known to successfully reduce student misbehavior and violence. As a result, contemporary school discipline is often unhelpful, and can be hurtful to students in ways likely to make schools more violent places. Furthermore, those students who are most at-risk of problems in schools and dropping out are the ones who are most affected by these counterproductive policies. Our schools and our students can and should be safe, and Homeroom Security offers real strategies for making them so.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

I shudder when I think back to my experiences in high school. Like many other adolescents, I was awkward and insecure, trying to fit in while figuring out who I was and what kind of adult I wanted to be. Even though I grew up in a middle-class suburban community and was sheltered from serious life problems like poverty and violence, ...

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pp. xi-xii

I received a great deal of help with this book. Most important, I want to thank Nicole L. Bracy and Olivia Salcido for their tremendous assistance. While graduate students at the University of Delaware and Arizona State University, respectively, each spent hundreds of hours collecting data through observations and interviews. ...

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Introduction: Too Much Discipline

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pp. 1-12

I wrote this field note about Albert while doing research for a previous book about prosecuting youth in juvenile and criminal courts; his case led me to be curious about school discipline and security. Of course, any child who threatens violence, especially life-threatening violence on such a large scale, should be reprimanded ...

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1 A New Regime

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pp. 13-41

This is the new homeroom security. Public schools today look very different than those of just a generation ago; they have undergone a host of changes over the past fifteen years as concerns about security and safety have permeated American consciousness. These changes have been twofold: first, schools have ratcheted up ...

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2 Protecting Our Children: Discipline Practices at School

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pp. 42-77

This bleak description of schools in East St. Louis, Illinois, a poor area in which most of the residents are African Americans, comes from Jonathan Kozol’s book Savage Inequalities.2 In other passages he describes schools in wealthier areas that have all the supplies they need and are in excellent physical condition. ...

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3 A Blue Line on the Chalkboard: Police Presence in Schools

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pp. 78-116

Biko’s story is told in a report recently published by the New York Civil Liberties Union.1 The report describes the growth in numbers of police officers and school safety agents (who are under the control of the New York City Police Department) in New York City public schools, and tells several stories— like Biko’s ...

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4 Teaching to the Rules

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pp. 117-158

This conversation between Jade, a black female freshman at Centerville High, and Mr. Wade, a black interventionist, illustrates an important dynamic I observed regularly at each school: that following school rules and reinforcing the school’s authority are themselves the primary achievement of school discipline, ...

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5 Unequal Discipline

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pp. 159-192

A mountain of prior research demonstrates that youth of color, especially African Americans, are more likely than white youth to be punished in schools, and that working-class and lower-class youth are subject to harsher punishments than middle-class youth. What is less clear is why this is the case, and whether poor ...

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Conclusion: Undoing the Harm

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pp. 193-219

This example of arresting a student for planning (but not actually engaging in) a food fight may seem over the top, but it is consistent with what I have described throughout this book: that schools have overreacted to potential threats so that students are at risk of arrest and harsh school punishment, strategies that do not address ...

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pp. 220-222

Though I have not had much contact with staff at the southwestern schools, I have been in touch with some of my contacts at the midatlantic schools, Unionville High and Centerville High. In particular, I have spoken several times with the police officer at Centerville High. Recently he described to me how arrests there ...

Appendix: Research Methods and Analysis

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pp. 223-234


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pp. 235-256


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pp. 257-260

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About the Author

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pp. 261

Aaron Kupchik is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware, and author of Judging Juveniles: Prosecuting Adolescents in Adult and Juvenile Courts, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814749203
E-ISBN-10: 0814749208
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814748206
Print-ISBN-10: 0814748201

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010