Chapter 10 Schools and Delinquency

Schooling in a Class Society

o    wanted schools to instill discipline in children that would train them to do factory work

o    also train children to be obedient; “mass education” was set up largely to train a mostly rural workforce for manufacturing plants in the cities

o    see this web site -

o    still prevalent today, as noted by school critic Kozol who quoted a school principal who said that “I’m in the business of developing minds to meet a market demand.”

Schools as “Day Prisons”

·         Day Prisons - preoccupation with order, control, and discipline

o    Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles is one example among many

o    Students are warehoused like prisons

o    At Locke for every 100 students who entered the ninth grade in 2001, three graduated with what they needed to go to college.

·         a feeder system for the prison

·         Random searches for drugs common

·         Police on campuses, cameras, etc.

·         High fences, rules about leaving during school hours

·         Minority students most likely to attend these schools

Zero Tolerance

o   The Court noted that We have observed that children “generally are less mature and responsible than adults,” that they “often lack the experience, perspective, and judgment to recognize and avoid choices that could be detrimental to them,”; that they “are more vulnerable or susceptible to outside pressures” than adults

·         Monitoring devices have become a big business – GPS, etc.  See list of companies the author found while doing a Google search

·         Millions of dollars in grants to schools to promote security

·         Many suspended for minor offenses – like using a Tylenol and taking a Cub Scout camp knife to school

·         FBI “profiling software” that suggests that the following are “signs for potential shooters”: “having parental troubles, disliking popular students, experiencing a failed romance, and listening to songs with violent lyrics.”

·         Numerous other examples noted in the text – see the case of Nick Stuban for instance

·         See especially the case of Savana Redding

The School to Prison Pipeline: Suspension and Expulsion

·         School to Prison Pipeline - nationwide system of local, state, and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system.

·         Zero tolerance policies are the beginning of the pipeline

·         Black students (esp. males) far more likely to be suspended or expelled

o    less than half of black students graduate compared to 75% of white students

·         Even though they are about equally as likely as their white counterparts to commit delinquent acts

·         Zero tolerance laws make it a lot easier to expel students

·         Important point: Only a small percentage of suspensions are for behavior that threatens the safety or security of schools

·         See studies by Losen and Skiba plus Iselin in addition to Texas Appleseed and the Southern Poverty Law Center – all found minor incidents lead to expulsion and black students are targets and it all leads directly to prison (e.g., 80% of prisoners in Texas never completed high school)

·         Being expelled leads to further delinquency and gang involvement

How Safe are Schools?

Statistics v. Fears

·         Violence started declining prior to Columbine

·         Exception-based policies dominate

·         Kids are safest while in school – even without police being there

·         Fear dominates – even while crimes on school campuses decline

·         Likelihood of a child being killed at school is about one in two million yet most parents believe that a shooting is likely in their children’s school (“it could happen anywhere” is the common belief even though it rarely happens anywhere

·         A national report concluded that “Serious violent crime appears to be prevalent in only a minority of the Nation’s public schools.”

·         Latest Justice Department study shows that between 1993 and 2003

o    the percentage of high school students who reported being in a fight anywhere declined from 42 percent to 33 percent.

o    in 2003, only 5 percent of students surveyed reported being victims of nonfatal crimes, while 4 percent reported being victims of theft, and only 1 percent reported being victims of a violent crime

·         2008/2009 school year – only 38 school-associated violent deaths

o    83% of public schools reported no serious violent crime

o    only 10% of teachers reported being threatened with injury


·         More media hype than reality as this is no more prevalent than it was 50 years ago

·         However, some cases have been very serious, esp. those related to gay students

·         Facebook has made it more public – such as the harassment of Phoebe Prince which resulted in her suicide

·         Recent report found that 32% of students experienced some form of bullying

o    21% reported being made fun of and 18% subjected to rumors

·         teens willingly sacrifice their own privacy to be connected on popular sites and they are less likely to worry about the privacy of others

Reinforcing Class and Racial Inequalities

·         Follow the money!!

·         Money spent on schools are based on property taxes, so that the richer the community the more money is spent

·         tax policies exacerbate the gulf between funding for the richest and the poorest schools

·         High-poverty schools v. low-poverty schools illustrates the importance of money

·         Note racial differences – minorities far more likely to attend high-poverty schools

o    Note the kinds of neighborhoods and families they come from

·         Apartheid Schooling – term used by Kozol pretty much summarizes the situation

o    Is it any wonder so many become involved in the “school-to-prison pipeline”?


·         Placing students into different classes or groups based upon perceived intellectual ability, mostly through standardized tests.

·         Such tracking goes on in at least 80 percent of the secondary schools and 60 percent of all elementary schools in the country

Consequences of tracking

·         students in lower tracks become discouraged and often give up because they are labeled as “low-ability” and a self-fulfilling prophecy sets in

·         students in upper tracks begin to see themselves as superior, while those in the bottom tracks see themselves as inferior

·         students placed in the lower tracks are, in effect, “tracked to fail.” And they fail at a far greater rate than students in higher tracks.

·         fewer than 10 percent of children slotted in these special tracks will graduate from school – they are “tracked for failure”

·         such tracking is linked to both class and race, as a disproportionate number of lower class and minority students are placed into the lower tracks

·         tracking has been found to have very little educational value

·         See Kozol’s comments

Dropping Out

School Failure and Delinquency

Four types of students who drop out:

•        maladjusted; these students have poor grades and behave poorly at school;

•        underachievers; students who have poor grades;

•        disengaged; students who perform better than the maladjusted and the underachievers, but simply do not like school;

•        quiets; students  who, other than having slightly lower grades, resemble graduates more than dropouts.

Falling Behind and Dropping Out

·         Poor grades, falling behind in school, attending inferior schools, being suspended or expelled and even tracking are all strongly related to higher rates of delinquency.

·         Dropping out is a process where there are typically various stages one goes through, including hanging out with other students who are in that same process

Factors related to dropping out

·         youth are more likely to drop out of school if they:

o    are doing poorly academically, especially those in lower academic streams (the most important factor)

o    have lower levels of self-esteem and a poor sense of control over their lives

o    are less interested in school and experience feelings of alienation

o    work excessive hours in part-time employment; and/ or are frequently truant, and generally have a poor attitude towards school.

·         As for gender, males are more likely to dropout than females; for race, racial minorities are more likely to dropout than whites

Consequences of Dropping Out

·         Harvard University Study found that

o    Just over half of blacks and Hispanics graduate from high school, in contrast to three-fourths of whites and Asians

o    high dropout rates were concentrated in just a few hundred high schools, called “dropout factories”

·         Costs to society enormous, as noted in the text

o    $8 billion annually in public assistance programs

o    High school dropouts earn about $10 thousand less a year than workers with diplomas ($300 billion in lost earnings and taxes every year)

o    Dropouts are more likely to be unemployed

o    Costing Calif. About $1.1 billion annually

o    Dropping out increases the probability of adult criminality and imprisonment


Gangs in Schools

·         Given that young people spend so much time within the school system and that this system produces so much failure, it is not at all surprising to find gangs prevalent

§  Note the study by Padilla

§  Girl gang members have poor experiences in school

·         Also not surprising, gangs are mostly found in the poorest school districts

·         Recent study found that gang members were significantly more likely to drop out of school, become teenage parents, and have unstable employment.

·         Many join gangs for protection from victimization in schools – most common in inner city schools which not surprisingly suffer the most from lack of funding and other problems noted already