Massachusetts Historical Society


From Segregation to Suspension: School Discipline in Boston Schools & the Rise of Mass Incarceration


Author: Matt Kautz, Eastern Michigan University
Comment: Robert W. Widell, Jr., University of Rhode Island

This is a hybrid event. The in-person reception will begin at 4:30 pm.

In American cities throughout the North and South, discriminatory discipline emerged or increased during desegregation, creating a “pushout” phenomenon in which the repeated use of suspension compelled students to drop out of school. This paper examines these changes within Boston’s school during court-ordered desegregation by tracing how city and school officials criminalized Black youth through the discretionary issuance of suspension, deployment of police into schools, and use of suspension statistics to rationalize punitive education and law enforcement reforms. It situates these changes within Boston’s changing economy to illuminate how school criminalization and punishment contributed to the rise of mass incarceration.

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Hybrid Event

The in-person reception starts at 4:30 PM and the seminar will begin at 5:00 PM.

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