La primera fase de la investigación se centró más explícitamente en la disciplina escolar. Nuestro equipo documentó la sensación generalizada de vigilancia que sienten los estudiantes y el sentido de que las prácticas disciplinarias eran impredecibles y administrado de manera injusta. Sin embargo, los estudiantes también tenían claro que las discusiones sobre “la seguridad escolar” necesaria para ampliarse sustancialmente con el fin de captar la amplia gama de experiencias perjudiciales jóvenes están teniendo en NYC escuelas y comenzar a imaginar alternativas genuinas.

The first phase of the research focused more explicitly on school discipline. Our team documented the pervasive sense of surveillance felt by students and the sense that disciplinary practices were unpredictable and unfairly administered. Yet, students were also clear that discussions of “school safety” needed to be expanded substantially in order to capture the wide range of detrimental experiences young people are having in NYC schools—and to begin to imagine genuine alternatives.

Metal Detector and Morning Scanning Reenactment

Video still, “Checkpoint Favoritism,” 2014.

Beware of the Watchers

What’s it like to be watched all the time at school? Surveillance cameras don’t make us feel safer, but they do make us walk funny.

End constant surveillance in schools

With metal detectors flanking school entrances NYPD school safety agents (SSAs) in the halls, and cameras staring down from above, our youth co-researchers discussed the feeling of being watched all the time. Youth researchers reflected on how this sense of constant surveillance shaped their experience of school, as these elements of security and surveillance were both normalized and introduced a sense of unease into their school halls and classrooms. The BARC team documented this sense of constant surveillance via school mapping, video shorts, and group discussions.

“You’re always being watched.”

“It’s not like [SSAs are] there to protect us. It’s just like they’re just waiting for something to happen, they’re provoking us…they give us this mentality, they’re here because they want us to do something . I feel like that.”

Checkpoint Favoritism

All people are not treated equally during morning scanning routines.

Stop inconsistent & arbitrary use of discipline

Youth researchers described how school discipline is used subjectively, inconsistently, and with “favoritism” that is suggestive of stereotyping and discrimination. The BARC team documented stories of differential treatment based on relationships (positive or negative) with teachers, SSAs, and administrators as well as individual characteristics (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, or previous disciplinary actions), noting that who you are and who you know impacts your experiences with school discipline.

“I got to deal with policing on the streets, I got to deal with policing everywhere I go, in schools, it’s like I’m constantly in a police state…this ideology of warfare.”

Youth Researcher in Group Discussion

What elements need to be present to create a comfortable, meaningful and engaging school culture?

Reframe what “Safety” Means

As the BARC team began to talk about experiences of suspension, discipline, and arrest in schools, our youth researchers pushed for a broader discussion of the violence being done to young people in educational settings. In our conversations, reframing “safety” meant making a shift from a narrow focus on violence and rule-following, to an emphasis on notions of community and respect.

“Well, what should be in place is a fundamental establishment where teachers and students have a relationship in which they can speak about anything, not only about school, but have a relationship in which they can communicate and gain advice from each other.”

While suspensions and SSAs were of concern, it was insufficient to focus on these topics alone; the youth researchers demanded that the team expand upon the notions of “school safety” traditionally spoken about in academic literature, to think more holistically about what makes a safe and supportive learning environment.
At the center of this conversation were concepts of family schools, respect and disrespect, and community. This reframing of “safety” pushed our project in new directions, broadening our research questions to consider what elements need to be present to create a comfortable, meaningful and engaging school culture.

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