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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Students' Perceptions of Black-Latino Conflicts in Public Schools

  • Author(s): Ysais, Michelle
  • Advisor(s): Reese, Ellen
  • et al.

This project provides a student perspective of the so-called Black-Brown "racial" tension in Los Angeles high schools. A theoretical foundation for examining Black and Latino tensions and their structural influences is provided along with an explanation of the racialized images seen in the media that contribute to moral panic in the surrounding community and promote school practices most comparable to the prison setting. Critical race theory, internal colonial theory and deprivation approaches to explaining prison violence are employed in the debunking of media portrayals of school violence. My research is based on interviews with 20 Latino and 20 black students from affected schools. These interviews provided students' first-hand accounts of race relations in their schools and their own explanations of school violence. They reveal that the triggers of violent incidents included interpersonal conflicts that involve a romantic partner, and the maintenance and preservation of respect for romantic relationships, crews, and self. The role of the school and its responses to violent incidents is considered and the physical characteristics of the school and how it contributes to the overall prison-like experience for students is also considered. School responses included no response, punishment for only those involved in the violent incident, and the imposition of more stringent zero-tolerance practices were the most common responses to violence. The imposition of punishments and harsher regulation of all students was reported to be the least effective method of promoting student self-regulation.

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