NaLette Brodnax, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Georgetown University
Top-Down Discipline: The Role of Carceral Ideology in the Formation of Public Schools' Disciplinary Regimes
Black students face significantly higher school discipline rates than their white peers. In investigating these disparities, I consider a "top-down" perspective on school discipline, where schools create disciplinary policy regimes that shape student behavior. I characterize these policy regimes based on schools' use of carceral ideology---the propensity to solve problems through surveillance, coercion, confinement, and correction. An accumulation of carceral practices in schools may alter the education, beliefs, and identities of poor and racially minoritized students in harmful ways, inhibiting their successful transition to college, the workplace, and other social environments. I develop a school-level measure of carceral ideology based on computational analyses of text from approximately 15,000 school handbooks. I find that carceral ideology is more prevalent among suburban and rural schools than among urban schools. Black students are more likely to encounter carceral ideology when they comprise a statistical minority, unless they attend charter schools, where carceral ideology is most prevalent when Black students are the majority. I also find that carceral ideology is associated with higher rates of in-school and out-of-school suspension, and to a lesser extent, expulsions.