When Protection becomes Punishment: Policing the Public (Schools) in an Unequal City

Dr. Carla Shedd


3:30-4:45 pm, Thursday, October 20th 


Shiffman 219 


This talk will present an overview of my research examining how Chicago’s most vulnerable residents navigate their neighborhoods, assess their life chances, and reconcile their encounters with the law. My analysis relies on both quantitative and qualitative data to argue that adolescents’ worldviews are profoundly influenced by encounters with law enforcement, particularly while traveling to school and during school hours. Teens often travel long distances to attend school and, due to Chicago’s segregated and highly unequal neighborhoods, their journey may involve crossing class, race, and gang lines. I find that the disadvantaged teens who traverse these boundaries daily develop a keen “perception of injustice,” or the recognition that their economic and educational opportunities are restricted by their place in our nation's social hierarchy. I also track the use and impact of metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and pat-downs at certain Chicago schools. Along with police procedures like stop-and-frisk in their neighborhoods, these prison-like practices in their schools lead to distrust of authority and feelings of powerlessness among the adolescents who also experience mistreatment either firsthand or vicariously. By amplifying the oft-ignored voices of marginalized adolescents, this work opens a door onto a generation whose perceptions and experiences reflect the growing inequalities in contemporary society.




African & Afro-American Studies , Anthropology , Social Justice and Social Policy , Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies