Disciplining Latino/A Youth In Greater Metro Atlanta: A Mixed Methods Approach

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Disciplining Latino/A Youth In Greater Metro Atlanta: A Mixed Methods Approach

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Since the 1960s more police and security measures have been used to monitor youth. Today 42 percent of schools have a school resource officer (SRO) stationed inside their buildings; 26 states allow schools to expel students for “willful defiance”; and 91 percent use surveillance cameras. These policies and practices are more prevalent in predominantly Black and Brown schools, and serve as race-based social control mechanisms. This dissertation explores school criminalization in greater metro Atlanta, Georgia, using panel data from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Georgia’s Department of Education (GaDOE) to identify school trends from 2009 to 2015. It has two primary aims: first, to expand racial threat theory beyond the black and white model by exploring how Latino/a students are criminalized in comparison to Black students; and second, to investigate how school resource officers contribute to racial and gender bias in school discipline. In the quantitative portion of this study, I analyze data using a mixed-methods approach, including linear fixed effects estimates of the racial composition of school and school discipline rates. In the qualitative portion, I report the results of my yearlong ethnographic study of one SRO’s relationship to staff and students in a predominantly Latino/a high school. The quantitative findings show that increases in the Latino/a population schools do not yield higher discipline rates, except for expulsion rates. Meanwhile, the qualitative findings demonstrate that the criminalization and racialization of Latino/a and Black students take different forms, especially when viewed through the lens of gender as well as race. I hope that the conclusions of this and similar studies will influence the decisions of policy-makers and key stakeholders in the educational and criminal justice systems at this pivotal moment in U.S. history, when the nation is collectively confronting the ugly truth of how state punishment shores up systemic racism.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2020. Major: Sociology. Advisor: Chris Uggen. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 201 pages.

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Cuthbert, Jessica. (2020). Disciplining Latino/A Youth In Greater Metro Atlanta: A Mixed Methods Approach. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/216162.

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