Chapter 18 pages 380-404
Re-Mediating Narratives: Exceptional Children in Captivity
This chapter draws from the experiences of a veteran educator teaching and learning with youths in a public high school located within a juvenile detention center between 2014-2018. Integrating the discourse of five young people who graduated from high school while in the juvenile detention center, the author demonstrates how the young people confront and re-mediate deficit-based narratives laden with the stereotypes that often surround students with exceptionalities in simultaneous, intersectional ways. Research specifically focused on young people who manage to graduate from high school while attending schools in JDCs (especially youth who identify as disabled or have been identified as having a disability) is significantly sparse. Furthermore, disability is often missing during analyses of incarceration and resistance. This chapter seeks to contribute to this understudied domain.
“Remediation” has typically been associated with the labeling of those who are perceived as having deficiencies in the knowledge and/or skills deemed as necessary to complete schoolwork as defined by an institution (U.S. Department of Education [USDOE], 1996). Remediation is also described as a “process of identifying the need to take action to remedy a situation that, if left unresolved, will result in unfavorable outcomes” (Culleiton, 2009, p. 26). Narratives can function as tools for repositioning, re-mediating, resisting, and/or reconstituting associations of remediation with deficits into new discourses of re-mediation. A re-mediation is transformative and centers learners’ experiences in ways that are inclusive, robust, and critical. Although sense-making through narratives is a socially constructed and collaborative activity, our mediations of lived experiences also occur within ideological and dominant structures and systems (Cruz, 2019). Roland Barthes (1975) notes the ubiquitous presence of narratives stating that “narrative is present in every age, in every place, in every society… All classes, all human groups, have their narratives (p. 237). Thus, a re-mediating of narratives is an accessible and generative strategy for countering stigmatizing and damage-laden language or stories even within oppressive systems and structures.
A Case Study
My aim is to incorporate youths’ narratives while contributing to this less-studied domain of exceptional youth who manage to graduate from high school despite being situated in multiple state-created and regulated enclosures. In order “to permit inquiry into and understanding of a phenomenon in-depth” (Patton, 2002, p. 46) young people who were ages 14-18 and were residing in a Midwestern city as well as artifacts from the years they were detained by the state (2014-2018), were purposefully selected for this case study. In the tradition of a case study, a non-random qualitative approach was embraced to “explore processes, activities, and events” (Creswell, 2018, p. 183) involving the educational experiences and survival strategies of youth gaining a high school diploma as they negotiate institutions and processes in a school-prison nexus and its interrelationships.
DISABLING, DIS-LOCATING, DISPOSABLE
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that experiencing detention before the age of 21 is “associated with even worse adult physical and mental health outcomes” (Barnert et al., 2019, p. 342). Previous studies have shown the negative psychological and educational effects when students such as those incarcerated are stressed, anxious, and uncertain about their futures (Picou & Marshall, 2007). Furthermore, interruptions to schooling potentially incur a greater negative effect on the learning of exceptional children with special educational needs (Cooper et al, 1996). In fact, citing Katsiyannis (1991) Cooper et al. (1996) note “Many states mandate extended-year programs for students with physical or learning disabilities because they recognize these children’s need for continuous instruction” (p. 229). Therefore, highly stressful uncertainty related to juvenile court proceedings for system-ensnared youths, interruptions to youths’ participation in local community schools, and a lack of attention or oversight by officials regarding the types of educational opportunities available to youth in juvenile detention centers, amalgamate to target certain young people for negative life circumstances and outcomes. Using discourse from the transcripts of the five youths interviewed, this section illuminates their critical awareness regarding the social and political violences they must navigate and lends to imagining the creativity and exhaustive persistence required for them to earn a high school diploma.