Removal, isolation, and discipline in Texas schools : an ethnographic study of a 6th-12th grade disciplinary alternative education program
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This dissertation investigates the school-level impact of punitive zero-tolerance education policies through an ethnographic study of the daily practices in place at a 6th - 12th grade Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) in Texas. This is the first ethnography of a public DAEP in Texas, a product of zero-tolerance policy designed to punish and secondly to educate. The analysis draws from a rich set of data consisting of 27 months of participant observations, 12 of these months as a substitute teacher, 90 in-depth interviews with program staff, students, parents, student survey, and an archive of student disciplinary documents. The study addresses four research questions: 1) How does the penetration of the carceral arm of the criminal justice system into public schools affect the quality of education? 2) How is discipline accomplished in this program, specifically, what are its forms, how does it vary, what is the extent of its operation, and what are its effects? 3) How does this experience vary by race, gender, class, and citizenship status? And 4) How do these disciplinary practices impact teachers, students, and families? DAEPs have little state over site, a dropout rate five times higher than mainstream schools in Texas, and have become a more common academic transition point for boys, Latinos, black, and low-income youth. This in-depth study of a DAEP offers a nuanced understanding of the form, effects, variation, and extension of discipline within and beyond the program’s bounds, and contributes to our understanding of the micro-effects of punitive school policies on children, their families, and school authorities. Additionally, it examines one way the punitive state exerts discipline over marginalized youth populations through disciplinary school practices. Lastly, the dissertation provides the knowledge needed to improve the educational experiences of the most vulnerable youth populations.