EDST Doctoral Colloquium – Not Free Inside, Not Free Outside: School Expulsion and the Problem of Freedom


Speaker: Addyson Frattura

Date and time: Thursday, February 8, 2024, 12 pm-1:30 pm.

Place: PCN 2012 (Multi Purpose Room).


You are locked out. The outness of the outside is not as comforting as one might have imagined. The ragweed blossoms beautifully, but the pollen chokes. Mistaken for goldenrod, you collect a few for safekeeping and braid them around your chest in delicate armor. Ragweed pollen rubs and spreads. The inverted teacup petals fall and flee. You too would like to be what you would have been, could have been, but never were. While peering through the small glass frame of the wooden schoolhouse door, you contemplate the mundanity of peace. When it comes, if it comes, you won’t know what to do with it. Accustomed to the closing of doors, you vacate and scatter. You are pollen in the air. Supposedly free. You breathe in so deeply you swallow a fly and cough up a story that is filled with you. But you are not here. The door that shut you out does not mean you want to come in. It was no good there anyway. You slip out and around the back, leaving a schoolhouse covered in weeds you confused for flowers. Quietly you ask, is there more than this? I hope so. Please don’t go into the softest sound. Watch out, the door is coming.


School expulsion is commonly understood as an exclusionary punishment in response to a violation of school rules, policies, laws, authority, customs, or agreements. However, when school expulsion is only seen as punitive within an already problematic institution, one is prevented from seeing school expulsion more expansively. What happens in that moment of school expulsion is not singularly a punitive action. School expulsion communicates to the student, who is still a child or young person, that they can be ejected, dismissed, and rejected from the bounds of a particular human community within a school. From here, I make a philosophical and educational claim that school expulsion, beyond its punitive nature, exposes the existential problem of freedom. This particular problem of freedom emerges from the legacy of chattel slavery, racial segregation, and centuries of institutionally enforced non-freedom. I describe this freedom as a specific problem because it is an unrealized freedom within a society that behaves and celebrates as if it were a freedom realized for everyone. While freedom is an existential problem for everyone, it becomes a distinct problem for the student who is expelled from school. Freedom becomes a significant concern for students with disabilities and for racialized students, predominantly Black students, who are disproportionately impacted by school expulsions. In my dissertation, I look closely at school expulsion to expose freedom as an existential and abolitionary problem of freedom, beyond the constraints of punishment and toward an abolitionary ethic of love.