Crime Control Strategies in School: Chicanas’/os’ Perceptions and Criminalization

Abstract

High schools throughout the United States experience problems with violence, drugs, and crime. School administrators have responded with policies and strategies designed to prevent school violence such as zero tolerance approaches, partnerships with law enforcement agencies, security camera installations, and hiring additional security personnel to monitor students. The purpose of this research is to determine how Chicanas/os and school officials perceive and experience these techniques as part of a broader process of criminalization. In addition, using qualitative data we explore perceptions of safety and experiences with victimization. Qualitative data include interviews (with high school students, school administrators, and security personnel), an evaluation of a Chicana/o-centered program, and participant observations in a predominantly Chicana/o high school located in the Southwest. Findings show some students find the new techniques to be invasive and hostile and others find school security measures as providing a sense of security; and administrators and teachers generally find value in the new approaches. From a LatCrit perspective, we argue that Chicana/o and Mexicana/o experiences are set within a context of racialized space where criminalization is one possible outcome of school security measures.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Chicana/o is exclusively used throughout the paper, unless we cite participants or data that use other terms. Chicana/o is used because of its libratory and political connotation, and its importance to the struggle of people of predominately Mexican descent (Niemann 2002). Latina/o is used interchangeably with Chicana/o. Mexican is used only for participants who are of said citizenship and birth, but living in the US. Hispanic is used only when citing US government data because of its association to US colonization of people of Latin culture and descent (Rodriguez et al. 2000).

  2. 2.

    La Victoria is a fictitious name used for the Chicana/o neighborhood that is the site of our study. This was done to protect the anonymity of our research participants.

  3. 3.

    The two tenets we do not use for our study address two ideas: (a) commitment to social justice, and (b) use of interdisciplinary perspectives in research. We feel that these two mostly explain the values of the researchers, and not the lenses by which we need to explicitly understand the experiences of our research participants.

  4. 4.

    QSR NVIVO8 is an analysis software used for coding, indexing, searching, and developing theory from qualitative data. It is designed for researchers trying to make sense of complex data thorough exploration and rigorous management and analysis, and helps organize large amounts of data into a hierarchical tree-like form.

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Correspondence to Edwardo L. Portillos.

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Portillos, E.L., González, J.C. & Peguero, A.A. Crime Control Strategies in School: Chicanas’/os’ Perceptions and Criminalization. Urban Rev 44, 171–188 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-011-0192-z

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Keywords

  • Chicanas/os
  • Criminalization
  • High school
  • Surveillance
  • Youth culture
  • LatCrit theory
  • Racialized space