Recent developments in school social control

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In the U.S., decisions regarding social control are increasingly modeled on two dominant institutions: the criminal justice and medical/healthcare systems. Sociologists and other scholars refer to this adoption of legal and/or medical terminology and technologies as criminalization and medicalization. These models of social control are particular evident in how America defines and manages child behavior. Public schools borrow from both the criminal justice and medical systems as part of the routine educational setting. In this article, I provide the first synthesis and review of the school criminalization and medicalization literatures. In doing so, I argue that criminalized school social controls provide harsh, repressive responses to student misbehavior, while medicalized school social controls provide rehabilitative and restitutive responses. Given these fundamentally different approaches to student behavior, I argue that the disproportionate use of criminalized and medicalized social control across racial/ethnic groups and children from different socioeconomic backgrounds entrenches inequalities and functions to channel racial/ethnic minorities and poor children into the school-to-prison pipeline while keeping socially advantaged children in school and away from the problems associated with criminalized social control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12743
JournalSociology Compass
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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