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The Scars of Suspension: Testimonies as Narratives of School-Induced Collective Trauma

  • Author(s): Powell, Tunette Michele
  • Advisor(s): Gomez, Kim
  • et al.
Abstract

The school-to-prison pipeline is typically framed by researchers and scholars within academia as a “youth problem.” While it is true that youth are the bodies that are being targeted, are the direct participants and experience the immediate punitive impact with respect to the loss of school day(s), the impact of school discipline has a much broader impact. In this dissertation, I argue that like the spread of radiation after a nuclear bomb, the impact of school suspension permeates not only the child but the parents, siblings, grandparents and others in the kinship circle. Historically, in Black communities, the family structure is such that the child cannot be bracketed out from the framework of kinship. A consequence of this is that the burden of disproportionate school disciplinary measures that affect Black students also deeply impact their families, especially families of young children. I argue that the disproportionate use of school disciplinary measures such as school suspension creates a collective trauma for Black families. Considering this, this dissertation analyzes the experience of trauma and documents the narratives of Black families who have experienced trauma. Using qualitative methods that include the analysis of narratives from a cross-country sample of 14 Black parents presented through a combination of short stories and hip-hop verses, I theorize that the scarring of a young child’s school suspension on the immediate family be considered trauma.

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