Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Homeroom Security

Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear

Aaron Kupchik
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 274
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Homeroom Security
    Book Description:

    Police officers, armed security guards, surveillance cameras, and metal detectors are common features of the disturbing new landscape at many of today's high schools. You will also find new and harsher disciplinary practices: zero-tolerance policies, random searches with drug-sniffing dogs, and mandatory suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, despite the fact that school crime and violence have been decreasing nationally for the past two decades. While most educators, students, and parents accept these harsh policing and punishment strategies based on the assumption that they keep children safe, Aaron Kupchik argues that we need to think more carefully about how we protect and punish students.In Homeroom Security, Kupchik shows that these policies lead schools to prioritize the rules instead of students, so that students' real problems - often the very reasons for their misbehavior - get ignored. Based on years of impressive field research, Kupchik demonstrates that the policies we have zealously adopted in schools across the country are the opposite of the strategies that are known to successfully reduce student misbehavior and violence. As a result, contemporary school discipline is often unhelpful, and can be hurtful to students in ways likely to make schools more violent places. Furthermore, those students who are most at-risk of problems in schools and dropping out are the ones who are most affected by these counterproductive policies. Our schools and our students can and should be safe, and Homeroom Security offers real strategies for making them so.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4920-3
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Too Much Discipline
    (pp. 1-12)

    I wrote this field note about Albert while doing research for a previous book about prosecuting youth in juvenile and criminal courts; his case led me to be curious about school discipline and security. Of course, any child who threatens violence, especially life-threatening violence on such a large scale, should be reprimanded and taught that such threats are inappropriate. The school should also talk to the child’s parents, both to let them know about the problem and to determine whether the child has access to weapons. But it seems unlikely that any child of that age could understand the full...

    (pp. 13-41)
    Nicole L. Bracy

    This is the new homeroom security. Public schools today look very different than those of just a generation ago; they have undergone a host of changes over the past fifteen years as concerns about security and safety have permeated American consciousness. These changes have been twofold: first, schools have ratcheted up their punishment policies, clarifying what are and are not acceptable behaviors and enforcing these rules with tougher penalties for students who violate them; and second, schools have introduced security forces (such as security guards and law enforcement officers) and surveillance technologies (such as metal detectors and security cameras) to...

  7. 2 PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN: Discipline Practices at School
    (pp. 42-77)

    This bleak description of schools in East St. Louis, Illinois, a poor area in which most of the residents are African Americans, comes from Jonathan Kozol’s bookSavage Inequalities.² In other passages he describes schools in wealthier areas that have all the supplies they need and are in excellent physical condition. Such disparities in schools’ physical conditions surely lead to differences in how schools are run. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to convince students in one of these East St. Louis schools of the importance of education, to supervise groups of children in dark hallways, or...

  8. 3 A BLUE LINE ON THE CHALKBOARD: Police Presence in Schools
    (pp. 78-116)
    Nicole L. Bracy

    Biko’s story is told in a report recently published by the New York Civil Liberties Union.¹ The report describes the growth in numbers of police officers and school safety agents (who are under the control of the New York City Police Department) in New York City public schools, and tells several stories—like Biko’s—illustrating abuse of students and school staff at the hands of these officers. The report is disturbing. The abuses described include physical abuse and sexual harassment of students, retaliatory arrests of school staff who protect students from abuse at the hands of police, and other offenses....

    (pp. 117-158)

    This conversation between Jade, a black female freshman at Centerville High, and Mr. Wade, a black interventionist, illustrates an important dynamic I observed regularly at each school: that following school rules and reinforcing the school’s authority are themselves the primary achievement of school discipline, not inducing behavioral changes in students or solving students’ problems. These may not be the goals that are laid out in the schools’ mission statements or codes of conduct, and school staff may not be aware that this is how they enforce school rules, but these goals were clear in most rule-enforcement situations I observed throughout...

    (pp. 159-192)

    A mountain of prior research demonstrates that youth of color, especially African Americans, are more likely than white youth to be punished in schools, and that working-class and lower-class youth are subject to harsher punishments than middle-class youth. What is less clear iswhythis is the case, and whether poor and minority youth are selectively targeted for school punishment. Most school employees I met readily acknowledged that some students are punished more often than others, but many stated that those students are more likely to misbehave, and thus their rates of punishment are the result of race-and class-neutral rule...

  11. CONCLUSION: Undoing the Harm
    (pp. 193-219)

    This example of arresting a student for planning (but not actually engaging in) a food fight may seem over the top, but it is consistent with what I have described throughout this book: that schools have overreacted to potential threats so that students are at risk of arrest and harsh school punishment, strategies that do not address the actual problems students face. The teachers, administrators, and other school staff I met during this research clearly care about the youth in their charge, but they work within a flawed system—one that prioritizes rules over children’s needs, that focuses on punishment...

    (pp. 220-222)

    I collected the data described throughout this book from 2005–2007. Since then (as of December 2009), I have become somewhat optimistic that the conditions of school discipline may be improving.

    Though I have not had much contact with staff at the southwestern schools, I have been in touch with some of my contacts at the midatlantic schools, Unionville High and Centerville High. In particular, I have spoken several times with the police officer at Centerville High. Recently he described to me how arrests there have decreased substantially since the year I observed him (2006-2007). He noted that during his first...

  13. APPENDIX: Research Methods and Analysis
    (pp. 223-234)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 235-256)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 257-260)
    (pp. 261-261)