Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Nicholas Michelli

Committee Members

Cindi Katz

Carmen Mercado

Subject Categories



The 1980s introduced numerous state and federal policies that created a similar ideology of discipline and punishment in the educational system and the criminal justice system, a phenomenon known today as the school-to-prison pipeline. Several critical elements are involved in the production and maintenance of the school-to-prison pipeline, such as zero tolerance regulations, surveillance technologies, and strengthened in-school discipline practices. In this dissertation I argue that these elements of the pipeline maintain a strong presence and occupy the physical spaces of public schools. Moreover, surveillance cameras and police officers are most often installed in the cities' most under-resourced public schools, and poor, immigrant and students of color are most likely to attend these same schools.

In this study I describe the research process of the youth participatory action research collective called Student Supporting Action Awareness formed for this study. Collectively, we document how students navigate through the surveilled spaces of some of New York City public high schools. Through spatial examination and analysis of our citywide youth survey, as well as youth researchers' written and visual narratives, this mixed method participatory action research interrogates the social fabric as produced by dominant social institutions, and it investigates how the criminalization of youth affects student academic motivation and resourcefulness. This study selects methodologies from education, environmental and social psychology, but also relies on critical theory, political economy, and participatory action research to document student narratives, their perceptions of space and place, and their lifeworlds amidst intensified school policing procedures.

The data analysis in this dissertation is inspired by the work of geographers Cindi Katz, Henri Lefebvre, and especially by Edward Soja and his theoretical framework of "Third Space" to situate young people's lifeworlds within the constantly redefined, restructured and reshaped spaces at urban public schools. The concluding chapter challenges mainstream epistemologies of the school-to-prison to reframe and change the discourse, research, policy and practices concerning school safety. The last chapter also provides considerations for data analysis, research methods and policy recommendations for this work.


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