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Police in the Hallways

Discipline in an Urban High School

2011
Author:

Kathleen Nolan
Foreword by Paul Willis

Police in the Hallways

Exposing the deeply harmful impact of street-style policing on urban high school students

Through in-depth interviews, Kathleen Nolan offers a rich account of daily life at a Bronx high school where police patrol the hallways and security and discipline fall under the jurisdiction of the NYPD. With compassion and clear-eyed analysis, Nolan sounds a warning about this alarming convergence of prison and school cultures and the negative impact that it has.

Police in the Hallways presents a detailed ethnographic analysis of the ways in which discipline policies in New York schools have influenced the education and social experience of young people in so-called impact schools. Kathleen Nolan uncovers the complexity of the issues and exposes the unfairness of the policies in a subtle yet compelling manner.

Pedro Noguera, author of The Trouble With Black Boys and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education

As zero-tolerance discipline policies have been instituted at high schools across the country, police officers are employed with increasing frequency to enforce behavior codes and maintain order, primarily at poorly performing, racially segregated urban schools. Actions that may once have sent students to the detention hall or resulted in their suspension may now introduce them to the criminal justice system. In Police in the Hallways, Kathleen Nolan explores the impact of policing and punitive disciplinary policies on the students and their educational experience.

Through in-depth interviews with and observations of students, teachers, administrators, and police officers, Nolan offers a rich and nuanced account of daily life at a Bronx high school where police patrol the hallways and security and discipline fall under the jurisdiction of the NYPD. She documents how, as law enforcement officials initiate confrontations with students, small infractions often escalate into “police matters” that can lead to summonses to criminal court, arrest, and confinement in juvenile detention centers.

Nolan follows students from the classroom and the cafeteria to the detention hall, the dean’s office, and the criminal court system, clarifying the increasingly intimate relations between the school and the criminal justice system. Placing this trend within the context of recent social and economic changes, as well as developments within criminal justice and urban school reform, she shows how this police presence has created a culture of control in which penal management overshadows educational innovation.

Police in the Hallways also examines the prevalent forms of oppositional behavior through which students express their frustrations and their deep sense of exclusion. With compassion and clear-eyed analysis, Nolan sounds a warning about this alarming convergence of prison and school cultures and the negative impact that it has on the real lives of low-income students of color—and, in turn, on us all.

Police in the Hallways

Kathleen Nolan works in the Teacher Preparation Program and is a lecturer at Princeton University. She teaches seminars related to urban education.

Paul Willis is professor of sociology at Princeton University.

Police in the Hallways

Police in the Hallways presents a detailed ethnographic analysis of the ways in which discipline policies in New York schools have influenced the education and social experience of young people in so-called impact schools. Kathleen Nolan uncovers the complexity of the issues and exposes the unfairness of the policies in a subtle yet compelling manner.

Pedro Noguera, author of The Trouble With Black Boys and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education

Anyone interested in education in America should definitely take this sobering journey into life in an urban high school.

Library Journal

Police in the Hallways makes an important and novel contribution to the literatures on urban education, school discipline, policing, and the experiences of socially, academically, and economically marginalized youth. Nolan’s work is deep and complex.In addition to making an impressive contribution to scholarship, this text offers an extremely well-researched, thorough analysis that will engage both undergraduate and graduate students.

Teachers College Record

This provides a multifaceted glimpse of the role that security and law enforcement play in many public schools across the nation, and will prove interesting for those curious about life in the hallways and the often-difficult world inner-city students learn to navigate.

Choice

Throughout her eye-opening ethnographic study Police in the Hallways, entailing numerous in-depth interviews, personal observations, and candid conversations, Nolan artfully presents the conditions under which already-marginalized students must navigate an educational system heavily monitored and influenced by police. This book is inviting and invokes vivid images of the people and locations involved. Ultimately, this book is a fine addition to our understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with the educational system in America.

Contemporary Sociology

Nolan’s work is extraordinarily timely for policymakers, academics, educators, and concerned members of the public. If you’re looking for an explanation for how low-income schools work, how zero-tolerance policies affect them, or a strong framework for interpreting student behaviors in schools, I can’t recommend Nolan’s book enough.

James Boutin, An Urban Teacher’s Education

A damning portrait. . . By exhaustively profiling an unnamed Bronx high school — shadowing and interviewing students, teachers, administrators, security guards, and police officers over the course of an academic year — Nolan reveals the worrying ways educative aims have been eroded by a culture of control, the ways learning is superseded by law enforcement.

The New Inquiry

Police in the Hallways

Contents


Foreword Paul Willis

Introduction. Studying Urban School Discipline: A Bronx Tale

1. How the Police Took Over School Discipline: From Policies of Inclusion to
Punishment and Exclusion
2. Signs of the Times: Place, Culture, and Control at Urban Public High School
3. Instituting the Culture of Control: Disciplinary Practices and Order Maintenance
4. Against the Law: Student Noncompliance and Contestation
5. Tensions between Educational Approaches and Discourses of Control
6. The Underlife: Oppositional Behavior at Urban Public High School
7. Living Proof: Experiences of Economic and Educational Exclusion

Conclusion: Recommendations for Effective Urban Schooling and Sound Discipline

Acknowledgments
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Police in the Hallways

UMP blog - More guns in schools? An ethnographer's perspective.

We do not need cadres of armed guards or gun-toting principals in schools. We need instead amply staffed teams of social workers and counselors in schools—professionals who work from an educational, child-development, or mental health perspective, rather than a criminal justice paradigm.

Read more.

 

UMP blog - Schools vs. Prisons

Q. How many students look forward to going to school?

This is difficult to know. There’s immense variation in experiences among students around the country, and there are a multitude of reasons for wanting to go to school or not. One thing I find interesting, though, in terms of what my own findings suggest, is that students attending poorly performing, highly controlled schools very frequently want to attend school despite the circumstances they face. This is largely because school is where their friends are, and they often have some identity within the school community in which they’re invested—sometimes that identity is based on personality, sometimes school success, and sometimes toughness. Additionally, even students with very tenuous relationships with the classroom often hold onto dreams of “turning things around” and doing well in school. So they want to attend. The vast majority of teens these days, I’d contend, really do understand the need for an education and credentials that will lead them on a path to viable work.

Read more ...