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Frustrated, Resigned, Outspoken: Students' Engagement with School Rules and Some Implications for Participatory Citizenship

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image of The International Journal of Children's Rights

School rules are frequently presented as fostering responsibility, respect and self-discipline, yet it is rare for them to discuss students' participation or rights. Drawing on data from nine focus groups with secondary students within a southern region of Ontario, Canada, this paper investigates students' reactions to school rules, particularly in terms of participation in their creation, appeal or challenge. While students often negotiated rules with their teachers, for the most part students had little sense of themselves as able to influence the rules beyond either obedience or rule-breaking. The second half of this paper focuses on student subjectivity. While students sometimes felt able to negotiate the rules through positioning themselves as workers or students in the future, or as teenagers in the process of development, it was when they identified themselves as social actors and rights holders in the present that they were most able to challenge school rules they found to be unfair.

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, Department of Child and Youth Studies, Brock University


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