Gordana Rabrenovic (1957-)
Jack Levin (1941-), Maureen E. Kelleher, Simon I. Singer
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
Sociology, School violence, Juvenile delinquency, Criminology, Penology
Alternative education, Problem youth
Schools are meant to be places where children can go to learn, play and socialize. While this remains true the vast majority of the time, some school children now face other issues such as assaults, robbery, weapons and even violence while in the classroom. As a result, policies such as the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994, were implemented in an attempt to deter students from bringing weapons to school by promising a swift, severe punishment with no exceptions for breaking the law. The implementation of this bill, along with other key influential factors, led to an increase in the number of at-risk students suspended or expelled from school, frequently leaving them with few options. The combination of out of school at-risk youth, at home alone or on the streets, with little or no supervision has proven to be a dangerous situation. To date we have found few answers to solving this social problem - academically or practically. This dissertation adds to the current research and literature by examining one option to addressing the dilemma that often leads youth down a hazardous path - namely, alternative schooling. These non-traditional schools offer at-risk youth, who are not otherwise successful in conventional schools, a ""second chance"" at literacy, pro-social behaviors and high school diplomas to help get their lives on a more positive track. As a result of months of participant observation, teacher interviews and student school records, this dissertation analyzed how an alternative education influences at-risk students who attended an alternative school in New England. The key questions guiding this research addressed why students attend alternative schools, how these specialized schools differ from traditional schools and how alternative students are influenced by learning in a non-traditional educational setting. Lastly, this dissertation not only identified the key factors influencing alternative students, but also discussed which of those factors enhanced students' development and which factors inhibited it. The purpose of this study is to further the academic literature and practical understanding of alternative schools, the at-risk youth who attend them and what factors influence these students' development and academic progress. If alternative schools are to be considered a possible catalyst for positive change, then we must first understand their positive and negative effects on students, behaviorally and academically. This dissertation concludes by offering several significant policy recommendations based on the key findings regarding alternative schooling from a macro-sociological perspective, as well as a micro-sociological perspective. This research will hopefully assist future researchers and professionals to better understand the potential alternative schools have for being students' ""first step"" toward positive life outcomes or their ""last chance"" before becoming uneducated, unemployed and possibly involved in the criminal justice system.
Janese Lynette Free
Free, Janese Lynette, "First step or last chance : at-risk youth, alternative schooling and juvenile delinquency" (2008). Sociology Dissertations. Paper 2. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d10016272
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