What Makes Youth At-Risk?

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In inner city school districts, the disciplinary treatment applied to at risk youth has become a very controversial topic, especially when criminal activity or violence begins to outbreak. Most of the controversy stems from the solutions on how to discipline these individuals for their behavior or actions, rather than focusing in on rehabilitation and prevention. Additionally, policies and tactics are centered around racist and discriminatory biases, allowing this minority to become oppressed by authorities during the disciplinary process. Some of those tactics consist of acts such as racial profiling, stop and frisk, and zero-tolerance practices.

According to Davis (1998), “By segregating people labeled as criminals, prison simultaneously fortifies and conceals the structural racism of the U.S. economy” (p. 4). Research shows that criminalizing youth with these policies above, direct them on the path of incarceration; thus, perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline.  

In regard to addressing criminal activity, authorities obtain social control by targeting minorities that fit into a suspicious stereotype—committing false arrests as a way of preventing criminality. The theory created to understand this process is the broken window theory, which evaluates the inequality of criminal disciplinary treatment; thus, reveals how the law enforcement uses racial biases and racial profiling motives to control minorities (Durán 2009:149).

According to Durán (2009), the broken window theory “focuse[s]enforcement efforts on minor offenses to prevent social and physical disorder and thus reduce the level of overall crime” (p. 149). Law enforcements claim that their way of preventing crime is by identifying suspicious behavior. Instead, we see that communities of color receive attention for non-criminal activity and face oppression from the criminal justice system, due to their physical features. 

Durán (2009) concluded from his research, Police officers focused on making stops based on the legal justification of reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Probable cause includes a belief, based on objective facts, that supports the suspicion that a person was committing or about to commit a crime.  When youth grow up in an environment where they are believed to be suspicious at all times, due to environmental and physical factors, they are more likely to follow the path of rebellion. This is especially true throughout the education system in low income school districts. 

In areas where higher crime and poverty rates exist, studies show how youth are affected by these environmental factors, factors that they did not choose to be born into to. Negative credentials are placed on at risk youth at a young age by their society, making it challenging for them to see themselves as worthy in America. Rio (2011) researched Black and Latino boys in Oakland and found that negative credentials perpetuate these boys to believe they are whom people tell them, a “gang member” or a “failure” (p. 39-42). 

According to Rio (2011), “boys were taught that poverty, victimization, criminalization, and neglect were products of their own actions…and in turn they all reported feeling personally responsible for their plight” (p. 74). These boys have grown up in a society where if they dressed or spoke in a particular way, they were viewed and categorized as a potential gang banger, drop out, or failure. 

To understand this youth on a larger degree, Rio (2011) studied a group of boys, who were on probation, and observed how “Probation officer-youth relations were overwhelmingly negative and punitive, with probation officers being a disruptive control force in the boys’ lives, waiting for them to, as Jose put it, “fuck up”” (p. 86). Research shows the lack of rehabilitation programs for this youth, that could redirect them away from misbehvaing. Some may say that it is the parent’s fault for the children’s misbehavior; yet, this is not always the case. 

Socioeconomic status’s and the community of which one grows up in has a huge impact on the person they become. Most often, at-risk youth in low-income areas experience a lack of parental support, due to situations such as being raised by a single parent who works full time, having parents who suffer from addictions, or reoccurring trauma and abuse in their home. These situations are not to blame on the child, instead it is crucial that school districts provide resources and support for their kids who suffer from these types of situations. Law enforcement focus more on how to discipline these at-risk youth, instead of using therapeutic rehabilitation tactics, to prevent future misbehaviors.  Subsequently, disciplinary officials have driven students in a direction of dropping out of school or long-term incarceration, which is exacerbating evidence of the corrupted system that wishes to ensnare students in the school-to-prison pipeline. 

According to Morris (2016) Zero-tolerance discipline policies…have become a routine way by which to punish and marginalize Black girls in learning spaces when they directly confront adults or indirectly complicate the teacher’s ability to manage the classroom–not necessarily actions that pose a threat to the physical safety of anyone on campus. 

Not only does the “zero policy” discipline these students without taking into consideration of current factors that could be causing their deviant behavior, but when students at a young age are placed in these school districts that face poverty and a lack of resources, teachers sometimes use implicit bias and negative credentials on these students. Morris (2016) found through her research that inner-city girls transitioning into womanhood, face sexual exploitation within their society, leading them to rebel or misbehave (p. 17). Negative credentials and stereotypes placed on young adolescent girls and boys, help form their identity in negative ways, increasing their likelihood to rebel in the education system and in their society. 

Though, this is not the case—these “at risk” students have potential in life like any other student but are in need of extra resources and support programs to help aid them through the outside challenges they face. Through reformation like removing the “zero tolerance” policy and embedding solutions like workshop policies on self-awareness or self-discovery practices, counseling services, and support outlets, there is potential to see these students succeed in their education and in further regards—their future.

Most importantly, these public schools need funding and support to help their students succeed in their education, because policies involved in dispersing funds to schools based on student performance are fractured. Schools need to reevaluate their disciplinary protocols placed on “at risk” students, by educating teachers on how to treat vulnerable students properly.

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What Makes Youth At-Risk?. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/what-makes-youth-at-risk/

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