Dr. Susana Muñoz is Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the School of Education at Colorado State University (CSU). Before accepting a faculty role at CSU, Dr. Muñoz served as a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Administrative Leadership department. Her scholarly interests center on the experiences of underserved populations in higher education. Specifically, she focuses her research on issues of access, equity, and college persistence for undocumented Latina/o students, while employing perspectives such as Latino critical race theory, Chicana feminist epistemology, and college persistence theory to identify and deconstruct issues of power and inequities as experienced by these populations. Her first book “Identity, Social Activism, and the Pursuit of Higher Education: The Journey Stories of Undocumented and Unafraid Community Activists” (Peter Lang Publishing) highlights the lives of 13 activist who grapple with their legality as a salient identity. Dr. Muñoz received a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from Iowa State University, a M.S. in Student Affairs and Higher Education from Colorado State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Iowa State University. She was named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine as one of 25 most influential women in higher education.

Gaye DiGregorio, is the Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Achievement, which empowers students to create and achieve their personal and educational goals at Colorado State University. She has a B.S. Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University, a M. A. in College Student Personnel at Bowling Green University, and is a PhD candidate in Higher Education Leadership at Colorado State University. Her professional expertise in academic advising broadened to overseeing student success programs such as orientation and transition programs, living learning communities, opportunity scholar mentoring programs, and university wide retention programs. Gaye’s background as a first-generation student combined with providing leadership with programs and services for marginalized populations, sparked her research interest with first- generation students.

Equity and Intersectionality: Serving First-Generation Students by Creating Inclusive Environments

We heard a knock at the door. “Come in!” we exclaimed. James, our first interviewee, walked, opened the door, and peered his head into the conference room. “Hi, Dr. Muñoz and Gaye, am I too early?” James asked. “No, not at all!” James placed his forest green backpack by the door, grabbed a black conference chair and comfortably settled himself at the head of the table ready for the interview questions. “James, the first question that we have for you is, what does it mean to be a first-generation student,” Susana asked. James pondered the question and paused to take a deep breath. “Wow, it means so many things. It’s my story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s about identifying as Asian American but not having legal status in this country. It’s my parents’ immigration story and it’s through my determination that I honor the sacrifices they made for me. I may be the first to go to college in my immediate family, but being first-generation is way more than that.”

James illustrates how his life experiences provide additional complexities and nuance to being a first-generation student, meaning neither parent has obtained a college degree. His ethnic identity, legal status, and parents’ immigration story are assets which lend to the richness and complexities of his college experiences that often fail to be acknowledged by just designating him as first-generation. Yet, research agendas often regard first-generation students as “disadvantaged” or “at-risk” by focusing on “fixing” the student without understanding how college environments and climate contribute to the national graduation gaps of first-generation students and other minoritized student identities compared to their non-first generation peers (Bensimon, 2005).

In order to begin to address these graduation gaps and to focus on the assets rather than the deficits of first-generation students with intersecting identities, campus administrators should consider the saliency of students’ personal stories and life experiences. We posit that college administrators should consider intersectionality in their practice. Intersectionality may consider the way both salient and less salient identities (i.e., legal or language status, race/ethnicity, ability status) influence individual experience. However, beyond the notion of admission and attendance of first-generation college students, these considerations need to be sensitive to the national political climate, the development of strategic interventions targeted specifically for marginalized students, and the implementation of institutional change in the overall culture of higher education. How can campus environments account for equity and inclusion of other salient identities? Read more

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Bryn Harris, PhD, NCSP, is an Associate Professor in the School Psychology doctoral program in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver. Her primary research interests include the psychological assessment of bilingual learners, health disparities among bilingual children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder, culturally and linguistically diverse gifted populations, and improving mental health access and opportunity within traditionally underserved school populations. She regularly conducts international research, primarily in Mexico. Dr. Harris is the director and founder of the bilingual school psychology program at the University of Colorado Denver. She is also a bilingual (Spanish) licensed psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist.

 

 

Amanda Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Coordinator of the School Psychology Program at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Sullivan completed her training at Arizona State University and is a licensed psychologist. Most of her research focuses on describing special needs among children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and understanding the educational and health services they receive. She is particularly interested in elucidating disparities in the educational treatment and outcomes of students with and at-risk for disabilities and identifying malleable factors related to outcomes in order to inform policy and practice to better support students’ educational needs. Much of her work entails secondary analyses of large-scale datasets that allow for population estimates of students’ characteristics, experiences, and outcomes.

On Linguistic Difference and Disability: Basic Considerations When Engaging Bilingual Students with Academic or Social-Emotional Challenge

For decades, scholars and practitioners have tried to untangle language acquisition processes from common educational disabilities (e.g., Artiles & Trent, 1994). The ramifications of misinterpreting or ignoring the relations of language learning and academic development can be life changing. Students may acquire inappropriate special education labels, receive unneeded or ineffective services, be denied necessary language supports, miss out on general education curricula or socialization, or lose out on needed intervention and individualized instruction because educators fail to accurately recognize the educational needs of multilingual learners (Sullivan, 2011). Whether students are inappropriately identified for special education, or their special needs are overlooked, the decision can have long-term implications for students’ academic and behavioral development, treatment by teachers and peers, and outcomes well beyond schools since ineffective general and special education services and disability are linked to a host of outcomes across the lifespan: educational attainment, employment, health, criminal justice involvement, interpersonal relationship, and independent living. Thus, the stakes are high when school professionals are charged with responding to the educational struggles of a multilingual learner, and the determination of whether the student also has a disability goes well beyond simply trying to secure extra help.

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Cueponcaxochitl is a Xicana scholar educator artivista. She received her doctorate in education from the University of California at Los Angeles where she conducted research on culturally sustaining and revitalizing computer science education with the support of the National Science Foundation. Cueponcaxochitl served as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. She is the recipient of a UCLA Center X grant awarded to “Mobilize Ancestral Knowledge, Computer Science and Student Inquiry for Health in the Schooling Community of El Sereno”. A central question in her research asks: “How might ancestral knowledge systems and computer science education co-construct an affirming and sustainable learning ecology for urban school families?” Exploration around this question can help create more responsible computer science through ancestral computing for sustainability. She has published in AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, Psychnology, Learning, Media and Technology, ACM Inroads, and Power and Education. She enjoys outdoor activities with her family.

Child-Centered Action Research for the Protection of Mother Earth

My grandmothers’ teachings ground much of my worldview and actions as a scholar educator. A common thread in these teachings is the intimate interdependence with the cycles of Mother Earth. Similarly, “Protector of the trees” Ilan Shamir (2016) authored “Advice from a Tree” that inspired an insurgence of popular memes that anthropomorphize trees to aconsejar / advise: “stand tall, be flexible, turn a new leaf, drink plenty of water, sink your roots into the earth and enjoy the view”. From the voices of my ancestors, I would add: “disperse your seeds wisely”. My grandmothers’ knowledge systems tell about the day-to-day activities of living in agricultural societies in that nos aconsejan / they advise us to live in communion with nature.

In my graduate years of studying pedagogy and its implications for the sustainability of social, environmental and economic life, I go back to my grandmothers’ ancestral knowledge systems that give me the language to describe the call for education to not only fundamentally acknowledge the interdependence with Mother Earth, and also protect Mother Earth. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines have been largely responsible for the damage to Mother Earth. These disciplines have systematically denied ancestral knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples around the world as knowledge central to sustainable approaches to living and learning. Instead, damage-centered research (Tuck, 2009) of Indigenous peoples knowledge systems has been denigrated to “folklore” in most cases. Under this colonial system of thinking, it is to no surprise that students with Indigenous ancestry are left behind in STEM-attaining degrees. While researchers continue to document low-achievement, according to standardized assessments (as evidenced by the work of researchers, i.e., Morgan et. al., 2016), what they fail to acknowledge is the students’ lives are filled with rich science and math knowledge they bring from their homes (ancestral knowledge), yet standardized assessments do not document this. In other words, students know science (have previous knowledge), yet their knowledge is not recognized. Whose knowledge counts?

Drawing from multi-sited sensibility for learning as movement across contexts and borders (Vossoughi and Gutierrez, 2014), my approach to teaching kindergarteners content knowledge in Spanish for a dual language program continues to plant rare seeds of understanding. These seeds are embedded in rich ancestral knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples of Abya Yala, or the American continent. Combining Native science (Cajete, 1999) and an approach to Indigenous research methodologies (Kovach, 2017) is rare in the academy, particularly for early elementary schooling. While I am not conducting research in this setting, rather using my scholarly training to inform the approach and content of which I teach, my reflections in this blog can inform practitioners, families and researchers about child-centered research conducted by children and their families (and can be integrated in meaningful ways). Read more

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Sarah L. Alvarado Diaz is a third-year doctoral student in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers’ College, Learning, Literacies and Technologies doctoral program at Arizona State University. Sarah has been awarded a fellowship from the Office of Special Education Programs titled, Evidence-Based interventions in High-Need Schools: An Interdisciplinary Program to Prepare Special Education Faculty. Sarah is working under the direction of Dr. Alfredo J. Artiles. Sarah is an Arizona native and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual Elementary Education from ASU in 1998, and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University in 2004. She worked as an elementary school teacher in a public elementary school in Phoenix for 16 years prior to returning to ASU to pursue a doctoral degree. Her research interests include understanding the precursors to placement in special education (high incident disabilities) of culturally and linguistically diverse learners; how they connect with learning and classroom interactions and teacher decisions; and the connections to educational reform efforts (e.g., standards, high-stakes testing, zero tolerance).  She is also interested in understanding and improving educational opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse learners with or at-risk for learning disabilities by using a dynamic conceptualization of the role of culture (as situated within cultural, historical, and social contexts).

Dr. David Hernández-Saca is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Northern Iowa. He received his PhD from Arizona State University and MA from UC Berkeley. He is a former multi-subject teacher and his teaching responsibilities at UNI include undergraduate teacher preparation courses in the areas of post-school transition programming and issues and applications in special education. His research nucleus of his research agenda is problematizing the common sense assumptions of learning disabilities (LD). His two lines of research include: 1) (a) the emotional impact of LD labeling on conceptions of self. This work has implications for the problematization of LD that takes into account the sociocultural contexts of students living with this condition and the social construction of emotions about LD. He engages in this line of inquiry by documenting the perspectives of historically marginalized youth and culturally and linguistically diverse students with LD and in collaborative autoethnographic projects. His second line of inquiry is (b) the role of emotion and affect in teacher learning about social justice issues. What ties both of his lines of inquiry together is his commitment to educational equity through an interdisciplinary research design and methodology.

Challenging Rumors, Myths, and Half-Truths in Educational Discourse

This blog identifies rumors in the discourse used in educational research and spaces that have been accepted as truths and explanations for the conditions under which many students’ lives are determined, counted, or explained.  Our use of rumors was influenced by our reading of McDermott, Goldman and Varenne’s (2006) proposal that as researchers, we have “encouraged oppression by explanation: some can, some cannot, and this is why some have and some have not,” or, “under which rumors of disability and disadvantaged backgrounds are attended to and their persons counted, theorized, explained, and remediated” (p. 16). As educational equity scholars, our use of the metaphor of rumors pushes for practices that take on both reflection and action (or praxis, as defined by scholars such as Hoffman-Kip, Artiles, & Lopez-Torres, 2003) while challenging researchers to engage in research activity which provides more accurate depictions of students’ lives. A more accurate description of students’ lives in one in which more of their context is accounted for.  A more precise depiction is important since oftentimes, research findings impact stakeholders (i.e., school personnel), resulting in similar discourse within school communities. We define context as the circumstances that surround students’ lives, not restricted to what happens in isolation to other things.  By taking into account the lived realities of those we intend to write about, we aim to disrupt the rumors. In this blog we 1) recognize rumors as a part of the discourse in educational research; 2) identify what is missing from this discourse; and 3) assert meaningful educational discourse must become a part of a new material and discursive praxis for truth and justice.

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DAVID C. BERLINER, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, has also taught at many other universities at home and abroad. He is a member of the National Academy of Education, the International Academy of Education, and a past president of both the American Educational Research Association and the Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association. He has won numerous awards for his work on behalf of the education profession, and authored or co-authored over 400 articles, chapters and books. Among his best known works are the six editions of the text Educational Psychology, co-authored with N. L. Gage; The Manufactured Crisis, co-authored with B. J. Biddle; Collateral Damage: How high-Stakes Testing Corrupts American Education, co-authored with Sharon Nichols; and 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools, co-authored with Gene V Glass. He co-edited the first Handbook of Educational Psychology and the books Talks to Teachers, Perspectives on Instructional Time, and Putting Research to Work in Your School.  He has interest in the study of teaching, teacher education, and educational policy.

The purported failure of America’s Schools, and ways to make them better

For many years I have been writing about the lies told about the poor performance of our students and the failure of our schools and teachers. Journalists and politicians are often our nations’ most irritating commentators about the state of American education because they have access to the same facts that I have. They all can easily learn that the international tests (e. g. PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS), the national tests (e. g. NAEP), the college entrance tests (e. g. SAT, ACT), and each of the individual state tests follow an identical pattern. It is this: As income increases per family from our poorest families (under the 25th percentile in wealth), to working class (26th-50th percentile in family wealth), to middle class (51st to 75th percentile in family wealth), to wealthy (the highest quartile in family wealth), mean scores go up quite substantially. In every standardized achievement test whose scores we use to judge the quality of the education received by our children, family income strongly and significantly influences the mean scores obtained.

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Beth Harry is a Professor of special education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Miami. A native of Jamaica, she entered the field of special education as a parent of a child with cerebral palsy, an experience that has been chronicled in her memoir, Melanie, bird with a broken wing: A mother’s storyInspired by her experience as a parent, Dr. Harry’s research and teaching focus on the impact of special education on children and families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Her studies have included Puerto Rican, African American and a wide range of other cultural groups. In 2002, Dr. Harry served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ panel to study the disproportionate placement of minority students in special education. Her research on these topics have been published in numerous books and articles, most recently, two books: Why are so many minority students in special education? and Case Studies of Minority Student Placement in Special Education, published by Teachers College Press. In 2003 she received a Fulbright award to do research on Moroccan children’s schooling in Spain, where she was based at the University of Seville. Dr. Harry earned her Bachelors and Masters degrees at the University of Toronto, Canada, and her Ph.D., at Syracuse University. Previously an associate professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, Dr. Harry has also taught in Toronto and Jamaica, and was founder and director of Immortelle Center for Special Education, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

TMMI: Dilemmas of Knowledge and Learning in the Age of Too Much Mis-Information

In special education, comprehensible information about the overrepresentation of minority students has, for decades, been available and accessible to researchers and practitioners, courtesy of the Office for Civil Rights and, in more recent years, the Office for Special Education Programs. This information has consistently shown a pattern of overrepresentation of certain minorities in certain categories of disability. Yet recent work by Morgan, Farkas, et al., (2015) reports findings that are the exact opposite of this foundational knowledge.

Reviewing the work of these scholars leads me to reflect on what seems to me to be two seemingly opposite trends in accessing knowledge in today’s world. First, the over-simplification of daily tasks by sophisticated technology that eliminates the need for real comprehension. Second, the over-complication of information by abstruse statistical tricks that obfuscate meaning. In the following paragraphs, I will illustrate these concerns with a view to applying them to the topic at hand.

I recently applied for a lease to rent an apartment in a decent but modest condominium association. Delighted to hear that I would be able to complete the application on-line, I approached the task eagerly. Having taken the time to read the lease before receiving the on-line invitation, I figured that just finding my way through some 15 pages of legalese would take a mere twenty minutes or so. Imagine my surprise at finding that the only task requiring a moment’s thought was the initial box where I had to select which style of electronic signature and initial I preferred! That done, I did not need to search for anything, nor to be even vaguely aware what I was signing. Rather, I was guided each step of the way by a self-propelling red arrow that leapt from page to page, landing on a series of vibrantly pulsing yellow signature boxes, followed by an immediate prompt of “NEXT”, which then sent the arrow racing past all subsequent paragraphs to the next signature box. In 2 minutes I was finished, having no idea what I had signed. Ok, I thought, at least I should skim over the document before submitting, just to be sure I hadn’t missed a signature. But, you guessed it: There was no need to review, as the system quickly assured me that “all required fields” had been filled.

Really?

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Thea Renda Abu El-Haj, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is an anthropologist of education. Her current research explores new questions about youth citizenship raised by globalization, transnational migration, and the “war on terror.” Supported in part by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Post doctoral fellowship, this ethnographic research focuses on how young Palestinian Americans and other Arab Americans grapple with questions of belonging and citizenship in the wake of September 11, 2001. She recently published a book about this project: Unsettled Belonging: Educating Palestinian American Youth after 9/11 (2015, University of Chicago Press). Other publications about this research have appeared in Anthropology and Education Quarterly; Harvard Educational Review; Educational Policy; and Theory into Practice. Her first book, Elusive Justice: Wrestling with Difference and Educational Equity in Everyday Practice (Routledge, 2006), offers a critical account of the range of justice claims at play inside real schools, exploring several different, important dimensions of educational equity that are often ignored in contemporary educational policy debates.

Beyond “Good” and “Bad” Muslim: Addressing Islamophobia in Schools

In the wake of the 2016 election of a U.S. president who has stoked the fires of Islamophobia and xenophobia, democratic schools face a critical, moral imperative to proactively educate against this pernicious and dangerous political climate. Unfortunately, this racist and hostile political climate is not a new development for youth from Muslim communities raised in the U.S. today. Since 9/11 people from Muslim communities have always lived under the shadow of President Bush’s admonition that “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” They have grown up in a climate of rising Islamophobia as well as racism directed not only toward African and African American Muslims, but also toward people from South Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). They may have experienced increased state surveillance directed at their communities. The latest data show that hate crimes against Muslims have grown in the last year by a 67% increase (Lightblau, 2016; Morlin, 2016; PBS News Hour, 2016).

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Candi CdeBaca began her life as the eldest of three in a single-mother household in the inner city of Denver. From a very early age, Candi took on a leadership role by caring for her siblings and other family members. She found refuge in school, and saw education as an opportunity to change her circumstances. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, and went on to complete two degrees in five years. While in college, she cofounded the organization she now leads, Project VOYCE (Voices of Youth Changing Education). While in college, Candi also expanded a one-year support program for students of color at the University of Denver to a four-year program. She was one of the first youths to be appointed to the Denver Mayor’s Commission on Youth and to the Denver Mayor’s Latino Advisory Council. She recently completed a fellowship as part of the inaugural cohort of the Latino Leadership Institute. Candi is a fierce advocate for educational equity, and is deeply committed to creating spaces for the historically underrepresented to be key decision makers. She has an entrepreneurial spirit, and seeks to design creative, inclusive, collaborative solutions to our great social challenges.

Vanessa Roberts is a self-titled “artivist” currently based in Boulder, Colorado. The term “artivist” refers to an intentional combination of the arts, activism, and academic practice. In Roberts’ approach, all three are equally valued and important, and the crux of her work is centered on the power of theater activated as a tool for transformative social change. She speaks, trains, and performs nationally, traveling to a multitude of educational institutions, conferences, businesses, and also provides services as a cultural competency consultant for private clients in Colorado.  Ms. Roberts received her Bachelors of Arts from Colorado College in 2008 where she designed her own Liberal Arts and Science major entitled Critical Race Theory: Emphasis Performance Comedy, and minored in American Cultural Studies. She went on to receive her Masters of Arts in Performance Studies from the Tisch School of Art at New York University in 2009, where her focus was on racial and ethnic performativity in the wake of the African diaspora. Currently, Ms. Roberts is in the 5th year of her doctoral pursuit in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado – Boulder. Her concentrations are cultural sociology, race & ethnicity, and qualitative methodology. She is also a 2016-17 CU-Engage Community Based Research Fellow and works closely with Ben Kirshner, noted adolescent researcher and author of Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality. The community partner for the fellowship, Project VOYCE (PV), is a non-profit in Denver, CO that offers leadership and professional development training to under-represented and under-served youth in the Denver-Metro area.

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: The high stakes of modern day activism for youth of color

“Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” – Alice Walker

Youth do not live in a vacuum. Their daily lives take place in a matrix of oppositional ideologies, educational models, and acts of resistance. In tandem with the technological advances that make it much easier for youth across the globe to reach each other and share experiences, youth of color in particular are simultaneously suffering the repeated trauma of watching their bodies destroyed and devalued in multiple contexts. From racist online comments to videos of extreme police brutality, youth of color feel the racial intolerance and oppression, but don’t always see the magnitude of their power to disrupt it. For those able to move through their frustration towards action, the support of adults in finding the most effective means of activism is vital. Modern activism with youth requires that we build networks where power is fluid rather than adhering to limiting pyramids of inequitable distribution, especially those centered on race, gender, class, and/or age. (See Vakil et al.  2016 for a discussion of the need to further theorize power in collaborative projects, especially those with youth of color.) Read more

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Dr. Thorius is Associate Professor of Special Education and Urban Educational Studies in Indiana University’s School of Education, and Principal Investigator of the Region V Equity Assistance Center which supports education agencies in school desegregation efforts. Dr. Thorius is an internationally recognized expert in culturally responsive and sustaining education, special and inclusive education, working with families, equity considerations in multi-tiered systems of support, and equity-oriented professional development, all toward quality educational experiences for historically underserved students. Published extensively in practitioner and research outlets, including Harvard Educational Review, the International Journal of Inclusive Education, Theory into Practice, and Race, Gender, & Class, Dr. Thorius was a school psychologist before earning her Ph.D. from Arizona State University as an USDOE-funded doctoral fellow in an interdisciplinary program to prepare culturally responsive special education professors. During this time, she was professional learning coordinator for the National Center for Culturally Responsive Education Systems and the National Center for Urban School Improvement—and co-directed the Region IX EAC, the Equity Alliance at ASU. Dr. Thorius presents nationally and internationally on race, language, and dis/ability equity, and multi-tiered systems of support including culturally responsive school-wide discipline approaches. Her expertise undergirds past and current work with myriad US urban, rural, and suburban school districts and state departments of education. Dr. Thorius was recognized as the 2013 IUPUI Chancellor’s Diversity Scholar and 2015 Indiana University Trustees’ Teaching Awardee.

The Limits of Zero Tolerance Policies: What (and Who) Isn’t Tolerated?

A few weeks ago, a Black student in one of my graduate seminars came to meet with me for office hours. He had a lot on his mind as a special education teacher in a local urban middle school, not the least of which was something that had happened that day. One of his Latino students with a dis/ability label had said, “I just wish I could blow up this place”. As a first year teacher, he wasn’t sure what to do. He reached out to the school counselor, and soon found the incident out of his hands. Instead, in accordance with the school’s zero tolerance policy related to student threats of violence, a school psychologist began to “evaluate” the student’s capacity and likelihood to carry out his statement. In this and other instances of zero-tolerance, educators’ discretion in disciplinary responses to particular student actions that violate school codes of conduct is removed, regardless of circumstances (Macey, Thorius, & Skelton, 2013). But what are the circumstances? Who are the students being disregarded? Read more

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Ben Kirshner is Associate Professor of Educational Psychology & Learning Sciences in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder and Faculty Director of CU Engage: Community-Based Learning and Research. He is also the author of Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality (NYU Press, 2015). Ricardo Martinez is Co-Executive Director of Padres & Jóvenes Unidos

We obtained permission to reprint in our blog series the following piece written by Ben Kirshner and Ricardo Martinez. The blog was originally published in the NYU Press blog, From The Square. Kirschner and Martinez address the school-to-jail track, where students are increasingly being pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system.

Community Organizing to End the School-to-Jail Track

The Black Lives Matter movement has galvanized people throughout the US to speak up about systemic racism and the devastating impact of mass incarceration on communities of color. Civil disobedience and mass protest since Ferguson have generated needed media attention to the persistence of American racism. What the national media often overlooks, however, has been the last decade of tireless organizing by students, parents, and community organizers to dismantle the school-to-jail track inside K-12 schools.

According to the Advancement Project, the school-to-jail track refers to a system in which “out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests are increasingly used to deal with student misbehavior, especially for minor incidents, and huge numbers of children and youth are pushed out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” This system became the new normal in the mid-1990s as zero tolerance school policies spread throughout the United States. The impact landed disproportionately on youth of color, mostly African American and Latino. A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, for example, found that African American youth were six times and Latino youth three times more likely than White youth to be incarcerated for the same offenses. Read more

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