Excerpted from: Yasser Arafat Payne and Tara Marie Brown , “It's Set up for Failure ... and They Know This!”: How the School-to-Prison Pipeline Impacts the Educational Experiences of Street Identified Black Youth and Young Adults, 62 Villanova Law Review 307 (2017)(45 Footnotes)(Full Document)
I had dropped out in the 10th grade ... 'cause, I was bad ... all I wanted to do was crimes and fight and sell drugs. Like, school wasn't for me .... Before I got into that type of phase, a lot of my teachers were disrespectful, [and they] told me that I wouldn't be successful. I've even been hit by teachers. And, I've always been a very smart, educated kid. I had good grades and everything but I would always get into it with teachers.
--Louis (31), study participant
Louis is one of a staggering number of Black youth and young adults in the United States who have found themselves trapped in the school-to-prison pipeline (SPP)--a tangle of institutional conditions inside and outside of schools that funnel youth from schools to prisons. Like many other young people affected by the pipeline, Louis valued learning and education. However, disrespect and lack of support from teachers compelled him to leave high school before graduating. Once out of school, and with few legal options for sustaining himself, Louis was drawn into the illicit activities that were prevalent in his inner city community. At age nineteen, he was incarcerated.
This paper focuses on how street identified Black youth and young adults, like Louis, are thrust into the SPP. While high rates of school failure and incarceration among these young people are often framed as the result of their resistance to learning and conventional norms, this study shows a confluence of oppressive schooling conditions that directly and indirectly push them out of school and into the criminal justice system. They include institutional and interpersonal racism, poor treatment and lack of academic and social support from school personnel, exclusionary disciplinary action, and school violence and disorder. Examining participants' experiences through the Sites of Resilience and Structural Violence theoretical frameworks, the authors argue that the SPP is a set of both intentionally and unconsciously created institutional processes designed to educationally and economically disenfranchise low-income Black individuals and communities.
Sites of resilience (SOR) theory provides an alternative framing of a street identity as an expression of resilience and resiliency. SOR theory contextualizes how street-identified Black men and women acquire this social identity as a function of individual and structural conditions. “Street” identity, “street life,” or “the streets” comprise phenomenological language used by persons, active in a life of crime, as an ideology centered on personal, social, and economic survival. Street life is also a system of behaviors maintained through bonding and illegal activities. Bonding activities include attending or sponsoring social events, and examples of illegal activities include the use and sales of narcotics, gang activity, or armed robbery.
SOR theory is grounded in structural violence theory and describes how structural institutions and systems prevent individuals, groups, and communities from meeting their basic needs through policies, laws, and other regulations. A street identity, we argue, is more appropriately understood as a racial-ethnic and socio-cultural-based site of resilience in response to a persistent context of structural violence.