Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Terrie Epstein

Subject Categories

Disability and Equity in Education | Elementary Education and Teaching | Inequality and Stratification


school-to-prison pipeline, Black males, anti-educational environment, criminalizing, teacher - student relationships


In American society, Black boys are both “at-risk” for academic failure and for having their dreams deferred. The label at-risk is a larger consequence of the commonly portrayed image of the Black male as a criminal within American society. Unfortunately, what is thought of as the great equalizer, education and schooling, also plays a significant role in the criminalization of Black males. In schools, their intersectionality on measures of socioeconomic and special education status, race, and gender renders them susceptible to the thwarting effects of the school-to-prison pipeline. Through this paper I argue that (1) the education- related causes of the school-to-prison pipeline are interconnected and create a downward spiral of criminalization that traps young Black men in a youth control complex (Rios, 2011). Additionally, I argue that (2) for some Black boys, schools no longer represent a safe environment where learning and developmental growth occurs, but rather represents an anti-educational environment that is antithetical to their success. Lastly, (3) as a recommendation for disrupting this downward trajectory, I argue that it is pivotal for teachers as resistors (Autry, 2016), to use their relationships to transcend the school environment. To illuminate these ideas, I include a case study of one student to show how relationship-building between a teacher and student can lead to positive outcomes and a re-framing of the image of the “bad boy”.