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.
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.
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