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School-Imposed Labeling and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Symbolic Violence on the Bodies of Boys of Color in One “No Excuses” Charter School

L. Trenton S. Marsh

Historical, socially constructed notions of Black and Latino masculinity, mis/labeled behavior, punitive policies (e.g., suspension) and practices (e.g., school-imposed labeling) lead to disproportionate rates of dropout in urban US schools, continued involvement in the criminal legal system, and a limited participation in society. This article argues that school-imposed labeling—affixing a category or descriptor on a student to signal a shorthand message to others about a student’s academic ability and behavior—is symbolically violent (Bourdieu). By examining unofficial labels, punitive structures, and teacher perceptions of labeled students, I explored school-imposed labeling as a form of “normalized” practice that impacts Black and Latino males who attend an urban charter school with a “no excuses” orientation.