The Labeling Theory states that individuals “behave in ways that reflect how others label them” (Crossman). For example, if students are labeled as “deviants,” they often feel stigmatized and are more likely to act out. Labels that cause the most harm often come from groups of power given to subordinate groups. Escaping these labels can be difficult, and with the implementation of “zero-tolerance” policies, students who have been given these labels by their school are significantly less likely to graduate (St. George).
“Socialization is the process by which a person learns to be a member of a group, community, or society,” (Cole). Factors such as economic background, gender, race, affect student social interactions. School is an important environment for kids to grow and improve socialization, but kids who are suspended or expelled are not getting exposure they need to improve these skills.
I believe that the approach most schools take in regards to discipline causes more harm than good. With punishments such as expulsion, suspension, and referral to juvenile courts, schools perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline pushing marginalized groups out of school and into the criminal system. The Labeling Theory explains the psychological aspects of this phenomena and by stunting student socialization, students feel ostracized by their peers. These feelings make school a hostile environment and have negative impacts on individual education. I believe schools should take a restorative justice approach to discipline by removing zero-tolerance policies and focusing on fostering student growth in social aspects.