Legal Mobilization in Schools: The Paradox of Rights and Race Among Youth
In this article, we analyze ethnoracial patterns in youth perceptions and responses to rights violations and advance a new model of legal mobilization that includes formal, quasi-, and extralegal action. Slightly more than half of the 5,461 students in our sample reported past rights violations involving discrimination, harassment, freedom of expression/assembly, and due process violations in disciplinary procedures. Students, regardless of race, are more likely to take extralegal than formal legal actions in response to perceived rights violations. Self-identified African American and Latino/a students are significantly more likely than white and Asian American students to perceive rights violations and are more likely to claim they would take formal legal action in response to hypothetical rights violations. However, when they perceive rights violations, African American and Asian American students are no more likely than whites to take formal legal action and Latino/a students are less likely than whites to take formal legal action. We draw on in-depth interviews with youth and adults—which we interlace with our quantitative findings—to explore the interpretive dynamics underlying these survey findings, and we offer several theoretical and methodological implications of our work.
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