Prepare and Punish: Schooling and Discipline in the Black Belt

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Prepare and Punish draws on two years of in depth, ethnographic fieldwork at Abundance Junior High School, a small, predominantly Black school in the rural northeast Louisiana delta, to examine how schooling and punishment are influenced by broader cultural, political, and historical factors at the nexus of race and place in the Black Belt. In Chapter One, I examine factors shaping the culture of punishment at AJHS, illustrating how two dimensions of place shape students’ experience of punishment and schooling, first by exploring how Southern cultural norms around “a child’s place” influence students’ interactions with adults, referral to the office, and experience of punishment. I then describe how physical place—the Black Belt—and its social, economic, political, and historical realities as a region with past and contemporary racialized violence, institutional punishment, and rural disadvantage contribute to Black educators’ punishment of Black students. In Chapter Two, I examine how other aspects of place manifest in disciplinary decision-making, focusing on the role of education accountability policies and court-ordered desegregation in creating instability in school enrollment. I illustrate how the pressure caused by these enrollment shifts intersects with the local social, historical, and political context, with AJHS left to navigate the impacts of these policies alongside the school’s racialized stigma and reputation—and how this affects their decisions in the realm of school discipline. In Chapter Three, I describe the use of video and audio surveillance at AJHS, arguing that despite enduring educator and student belief in the “evidentiary protection” provided by school-wide surveillance, it often does not result in greater fairness or protection for students. I explore cases in which students are successful in leveraging surveillance to resist punishment, while also illustrating how both inconsistent review of camera footage and its use as a mechanism for control and compliance contribute to greater restriction and punishment of students. I conclude with a discussion highlighting the contributions of Prepare and Punish to our understanding of race, place, and punishment in schooling in the rural South today, and highlight AJHS’s own seeds of potential for providing more supportive and dignified schooling experiences for Black children.

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Education; Race and ethnicity; Rural South; School Discipline; Sociology


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Haskins, Anna

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Rich, Peter
Tach, Laura
Bischoff, Kendra

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Ph. D., Sociology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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