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Suspended

Punishment, Violence, and the Failure of School Safety

Charles Bell

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The disturbing truth: school suspension does more than impede Black students' academic achievement—it also impacts their parents' employment and can violate state and federal laws.

Winner of the C. Wright Mills Award by the Society for the Study of Social Problems

Decades of urban disinvestment and poverty have made educational attainment for Black youth more vital than at any time in recent history. Yet in their pursuit of quality education, many Black families are burdened by challenging barriers to success, most notably the frequency and severity of school punishment. Such punishment is meant...

The disturbing truth: school suspension does more than impede Black students' academic achievement—it also impacts their parents' employment and can violate state and federal laws.

Winner of the C. Wright Mills Award by the Society for the Study of Social Problems

Decades of urban disinvestment and poverty have made educational attainment for Black youth more vital than at any time in recent history. Yet in their pursuit of quality education, many Black families are burdened by challenging barriers to success, most notably the frequency and severity of school punishment. Such punishment is meant to be a disciplinary tool that makes schools safer, but it actually does the opposite—and is particularly harmful for Black students and their families.

Focusing on schools in inner-city and suburban Detroit, Charles Bell draws on 160 in-depth interviews with Black high school students, their parents, and their teachers to illuminate the negative outcomes that are associated with out-of-school suspension. Bell also sheds light on the inherent shortcomings of school safety measures as he describes how schools fail to protect Black students, which leaves them vulnerable to bullying and victimization. The students he interviews offer detailed insight into how the lack of protection they received in school intensified their fear of being harmed and even motivated them to use violence to establish a reputation that discouraged attacks. Collectively, their narratives reveal how receiving a suspension for fighting in school earned them respect, popularity, and a reputation for toughness—transforming school punishment into a powerful status symbol that destabilizes classrooms.

A thought-provoking and urgent work, Suspended calls for an inclusive national dialogue on school punishment and safety reform. It will leave readers engrossed in the students' and parents' tearful narratives as they share how school suspension harmed students' grades, disrupted parents' employment, violated state and federal laws, and motivated families to withdraw from punitive districts.

Reviews

Reviews

The details of the participants' narratives are rich and compelling.

Well-conceived and organized, as well as theoretically and empirically rich, this book holds the promise to impact practice and policy.

Suspended is a penetrating study that reveals how school suspensions and unfair grading practices target inner-city Black children and set them up to fail in later life—a stinging indictment and a must-read for anyone wanting to truly understand persistent urban poverty.

Bell's analysis of students' experiences with anti-Blackness and school punishment is both powerful and gut-wrenching. Educators and student advocates who are serious about reducing violence in schools—especially the violence schools themselves perpetrate—need to read this unique and important book.

Through the use of historical data, the lived experiences of students and families, and Dr. Bell's own self-reflection, Suspended makes a compelling argument that America's education system is an anti-Black institution. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
200
ISBN
9781421442464
Illustration Description
3 b&w photos, 2 charts
Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction. The Battleground of Life
Chapter 1. The Burden of Punishment
Chapter 2. The Code of Violence
Chapter 3. Educator-Targeted Violence
Chapter 4. The Failure of School

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction. The Battleground of Life
Chapter 1. The Burden of Punishment
Chapter 2. The Code of Violence
Chapter 3. Educator-Targeted Violence
Chapter 4. The Failure of School Safety Measures
Chapter 5. Failed Reforms and Black Educational Flight
Conclusion. Rethinking School Punishment and Safety
Appendixes
A. Methodology
B. Interview Guide
C. K–12 School Punishment Transparency Bill Proposal (Michigan House of Representatives, November 2020)
Notes
References
Index

Author Bio