Kenly Brown

“The Disciplinary Dumping Ground”: The Construction of Black Girlhood in an Alternative School

This dissertation explores how alternative school settings are used as a form of exclusionary discipline to punish Black girls. The conventional literature in this area examines the rates and subjective experiences of exclusionary punishment (e.g. in school and out of school suspension, expulsion, and arrests) among Black girls in school settings. Currently, there is a dearth of scholarship that examines how continuation schools act as a form of exclusion for predominantly poor students of color, specifically Black girls.

In this dissertation, I analyze how constructions of Black girlhood shape and justify practices of exclusion and punishment in a California continuation school, H.B. Stowe Academy (pseudonym for the continuation school). I examine how institutional policies and practices act as a form of institutional violence that constructs a distinct type of vulnerability for Black girls in a continuation school setting. Interviews with Black female students reveal they feel pressure to resist, and at times conform, to stereotypical perceptions as domineering, “too grown”, or hypersexualized in order to negotiate dynamics of violence, abandonment and exclusion in the school and at home. At the same time, Black girls continue to dream of possible futures outside of the conditions of violence and exclusion they currently experience.