Getting Schooled: Rehabilitative Practices in a Los Angeles Court School

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Abstract

This article describes rehabilitative practices in a court school for juvenile offenders located in southeast Los Angeles. These practices entail the interactional engagement of students in participant structures through which they may view themselves in roles that extend beyond the space and time of the interaction. Certain elements of verbal and nonverbal behavior are highlighted and given meaning within two opposing moral spaces, often glossed as "street" and "school." The goal is to get the student to view his or her potential rehabilitated "self within and by way of constellations of social relationships that are imbued with moral force. As such this constitutes a theory or ideology of rehabilitation that is simultaneously local and situated within larger moral frames. The interactions most likely to enable rehabilitative work are those that emerge within informal talk during the activity of checking work. Student involvement in a program of volunteer work with disabled students at a school down the street—and the media attention generated by such work—reinforces this project of seeing oneself in different roles. It is suggested that these techniques reveal a political stance on the part of the school.

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