Ernest Saadiq Morris,Esq. presents Urban Youth Justice’s Workshop at the 2015  Seattle Race Conference

How HOSTILE LESSONS: School-Based Implicit Bias Isolates & Targets Youth of Color for Failure by Devaluing their Identity, Family and Community

 *UPDATE* This interactive workshop explored how the U.S. public education system has normalized implicit racial bias by favoring “white” racial identity and cultural preferences that perpetuate structural inequities. Implicit racial bias creates racially hostile school climates with punitive consequences for Youth of Color implicitly perceived as non-conforming, especially Black students and other historically disadvantaged youth. Identifying structural implicit racial bias and advocating to dismantle resulting structural racial inequities is a key component to achieving racial justice in the 21st century.
Thanks to a diverse group of ENGAGED PARTICIPANTS and to the SEATTLE RACE CONFERENCE organizing team!


Urban Youth Justice presents: The Color of Education podcast – “Teaching in the School to Prison Pipeline” – Jose Vilson Interview part two

Saturday, April 28, 2012 (Palm Springs, CA) – BOOST (Best of Out-of-School Time) Conference – Urban Youth Justice Town Hall: The State of Equity in After-School/Out-of-School: How Extended Learning Opportunity Meets Diverse Student Needs


The BOOST Collaborative Conference for AfterSchool & Out-of-School learning providers was an excellent event showcasing the challenging workshops and incredible enthusiasm of BOOST staff and the hundreds of participants!

The Urban Youth Justice Town Hall on Afterschool Equity Issues featured an honest discussion and open exchange of ideas between dedicated extended education providers from across the United States, and from as far away as Australia!

We’re already looking forward to participating in next year’s conference.  Kudos to BOOST Executive Director Tia Quinn and all the BOOST Staff and volunteers for an incredible experience.

~Ernest Saadiq Morris – Director, Urban Youth Justice


Saturday, April 28, 2012 (Palm Springs, CA) – BOOST (Best of Out-of-School Time) Conference
Urban Youth Justice Town Hall:
The State of Equity in After-School/Out-of-School: How Extended Learning Opportunity Meets Diverse Student Needs
Ernest Saadiq Morris, Esq., Director, Urban Youth Justice Initiative (Urban Youth Justice), Seattle, WA

Ernest Saadiq Morris will lead a dynamic, no-holds-barred Town Hall discussion on how after-school/out-of-school programming is meeting the equity challenges presented by a rapidly diversifying student population.

An overview of current issues and challenges created by diverse student subgroups, based on ethnic origin, nationality, race, gender, special needs, language, sexual orientation, and poverty (to name only a few). We will discuss the obstacles to maximizing the involvement of all student groups, as well as using grassroots organizing strategies to overcome them, e.g., inclusive communication strategies, and identifying barriers to participation. Also, cautionary tales of mistakes that your program will want to avoid.

A unique opportunity to share ideas, experiences, and the best practices for facilitating access to Out-of-School learning opportunities for the diverse student populations of the present and foreseeable future.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet Ernest Saadiq Morris, ask questions, and learn by collaboratively challenging each other to reach higher levels of effectiveness within your own programming!

Saturday April 21st (Seattle) – 8:00AM – 2:00PM – The Youth & Law Forum – MLK FAME Community Center – A Free Community Event!

Saturday April 21st (Seattle) – 8:00AM – 2:00PM – The Youth & Law Forum – MLK FAME Community Center – A Free Event!

Ernest Saadiq Morris of Urban Youth Justice will address the school-to-prison pipeline issues in both parent and youth empowerment sessions. Join us at this free community event!

FLYER – Seattle 2012 Youth and Law Conference_front

REGISTRATION FORM – 2012 Youth and Law Conference

UYJ HANDOUT – 3/10/12 Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative Community Meeting at New Holly Center

Here is the text from a handout resource that Urban Youth Justice provided to interested community members at the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative Community Meeting on  Race and Education at the New Holly Center on March 12, 2012.

RACE AND EDUCATION IN SEATTLE (RSJI Community Meeting 3/10/12)

The Seattle Public School District has a majority of non-white students of color. (Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011)

Most Black/African-American, Latino/Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander Seattle Public School students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch. (Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011)

Native American (25.6%), Black (18.2%) and Latino (19.3%) students are overrepresented in K-12 special education. (Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011)

In the Seattle Public School District, Black students overall barely outperform Special Education students overall in Reading/Math test scores. (SPS District Scorecard 2010-2011)

The Seattle Schools Neighborhood Schools Model reinforces and institutionalizes privilege in public education.

The Seattle Public School District is FAILING its Students of Color.

RSJI EQUITY STRATEGY 1: Applying racial equity tools to our programs and projects. Through the Youth and Families Initiative (YFI), the City has realigned spending to meet families’ priorities, and has designed the new Families and Education Levy around YFI’s recommendations. The new Levy, which Seattle voters passed in November of 2011, targets schools with the greatest needs, often meaning significant populations of students of color, for programs aimed at closing the achievement gap.

Urban Youth Justice supports the stated equity goals of the 2011 Families and Education Levy. However, the stated goal of simply “closing the achievement gap” elevates the District’s misguided education reform by “value-added” data driven by test scores that is objectively proven an inadequate measure of learning. The goal of closing the educational opportunity gap is a more comprehensive and effective education goal to increase learning opportunities of students of color and, ultimately, their performance by closing actual learning gaps, not test scores.

Research shows that the educational opportunity gap starts with inequitable pre-K/early learning opportunities for youth of color and other disadvantaged youth. Although the Families and Education Levy plan does provide more funding to pre-K/early learning opportunities, the Levy still fails to sufficiently prioritize pre-K/early learning inequity to a level commensurate with its importance to the overall stated equity goals of the Levy.

We believe that this is due to the incorrect emphasis upon “closing the achievement gap” that shifts the focus solely to raising test scores as the ultimate goal, rather than closing the educational opportunity gap.

Early intervention strategies for students of color must primarily assist students in achieving early learning success, rather than District goals of early identification of special needs that pushes mores students of color out of general education classrooms.

Test score-based education analysis is an inadequate tool to measure and define racial justice in education because it does not identify institutional racial inequality and/or bias that permeates school district curriculum choices, student discipline policies, classroom management practices, and distribution of educational resources that are at the real root of unequal educational opportunity. Also, multiple national scandals have shown that overemphasis of measuring success by test score performance data as can motivate school officials to cheat and fix results due to the high-stakes pressure of test performance tied to funding, school closure, and job security.

Finally, the language of the Levy implementation plan suggests that educational equity for students of color is merely a “soft goal” not one that is strictly required or enforced, either in spending or oversight. The definition of a school’s need for Levy funding is too subjective. There is a danger that these funds will be rerouted based on race and income neutral factors (such as “enrollment pressures”) to benefit historically academically privileged groups. Continued oversight and accountability enforcement are not sufficiently guaranteed and must be monitored by community stakeholders truly committed to educational equality for students of color. Urban Youth Justice has every intention of monitoring the Levy funding for accountability to the stated equity goals.

RSJI EQUITY STRATEGY 2: Building racial equity into citywide policies and initiatives. School discipline policies such as out-of-school suspensions result in students’ missing classroom experiences for extended periods of time. This directly impacts their ability to progress and graduate on time. The Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable has named education as its lead issue and is working with the Seattle School District to revise its policies on school discipline rates.

Urban Youth Justice main priority is ending the racial disproportionality in school discipline that feeds the school-to-prison pipeline. However, the School-to-Prison Pipeline is rooted in more than just school discipline.

The increased disproportionate placement of students of color in special education instead of general education is an already existing problem. There is a real danger of increased special education placement of youth of color with special needs/disabilities outside of general education curriculum and classrooms as long as “value-added” data analysis based on test performance is not identified as a negative factor in the Seattle Schools’ failure to provide equal educational opportunity.

Furthermore, there is a lack of attention to the fact that students of color with special needs or labeled as special education students are also at increased risk of disproportionate suspensions and expulsions from school discipline. Increased scrutiny of student discipline when both race and disability intersect is crucial to decreasing racial disparities in school discipline. Urban Youth Justice is uniquely focused on this area of advocacy.

RSJI EQUITY STRATEGY 3: Partnering with community. The Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable is partnering with Washington Community Action Network and other Roundtable members to promote a statewide legislative agenda on racial equity in education, and to develop strategies to eliminate disproportionality in school discipline rates.

Urban Youth Justice supports promotion of positive statewide legislative policy. In its 2011-12 session, the Washington State Legislature has introduced a legislative agenda that is openly hostile to youth of color and other disadvantaged youth. The corporate supported education reformers have influenced budgetary cuts, charter bills, test-based teacher evaluation models and juvenile justice cuts that are openly hostile to most vulnerable students of color. Data driven measurements that overemphasize measuring teacher performance based on high stakes testing promotes the school pushout of students of color, especially those struggling academically or having difficulty due to special needs or disability. Urban Youth Justice also supports holding the Seattle School Board and City Council accountable for racial disparities in Seattle public education beyond their participation in the RSJI Roundtable.

Ernest Saadiq Morris is a youth rights advocate, civil rights and liberties lawyer, and founding director of the public education and advocacy initiative, Urban Youth Justice. He has been defeating the school-to-prison pipeline since 2004, including coordinating the largest successful mass student defense to-date (Round Rock, Texas 2006-2007).

School Choice Discrimination Leaves No Choice for Vulnerable Students of Color

Published on Dignity In Schools (

By Ernest Saadiq Morris, Urban Youth Justice

The choice before human beings, is not, as a rule, between good and evil but between two evils. -George Orwell

School Choice programs, including school vouchers, charter and magnet schools, are not the egalitarian antidote for the historical inequality and discrimination entrenched within the U.S. public education system.

The term school choice is commonly used by corporate education reformers as a grotesque misnomer to disguise their attempted end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal recognition in Brown v. Board of Education(1954) of the constitutional right of all children to equal educational opportunity, based upon the absolute rejection of the “separate but equal” concept of segregated public education.

School choice programs encourage privatized outsourcing of public education that increases academic segregation based on race, disability, language and poverty that undermines equal educational opportunity.

Youth of color labeled as “high need” or “difficult” students, i.e., those struggling academically, English learners, and those with special needs or disabilities, are disproportionately excluded by school choice programs, particularly charters that deny them enrollment by cherry-picking students using selective student admissions methods, e.g., screening interviews or assessment tests.

Even after enrollment, no child is safe from selective “student-dumping” attrition, from either deliberate discriminatory pushout practices targeting low-performing or “difficult” students, or deliberate indifference of inflexible teaching pedagogy, such as rigid testing practices, that makes lower-performing students more likely to dropout.[ see March 2011 Report – What Makes KIPP Work? A Study of Student Characteristics, Attrition, and School Finance].

Equally alarming is the ability of school choice programs to disguise their direct causal connection to the academic segregation and isolation of disadvantaged Black and Latino students (i.e., English Learners, students with disabilities, and those with poverty-based needs, e.g., homeless youth and free/reduced lunch qualifiers) away from most white students.

A recent analysis by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA of school choice in San Diego public schools found that school choice, i.e., open enrollment and charters, resulted in substantial academic re-segregation. A local reporter’s coverage detailed how diverse, mixed-race San Diego neighborhoods still contain segregated public schools , because school choice tends to isolate Black and Latino students away from white students. These segregated schools not only fail to reflect the diversity of their surrounding community, but the test-based performance of their segregated student population predictably reinforces the racial achievement gap.

School choice vouchers are egregious enablers of academic discrimination, increasingly promoted with false promises of empowering low-income families to obtain educational equity at private schools paid for by public dollars. However, research often indicates low-income urban public school students benefit less from vouchers than pre-existing private school students that opportunistically subsidize their current tuition with public dollars.

Private voucher schools undermine the financial health of traditional public schools by serving significantly less students with diverse academic and social challenges, largely due to intentional practices by which they conveniently avoid and exclude the students needing the most expensive remedial services or resource commitment. In Milwaukee, private voucher schools’ overwhelming rejection of students with special needs or disabilities was evidenced by only 1.6% of all private voucher school students having documented disabilities compared to 20% within the traditional Milwaukee Public Schools system, resulting in the filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice by Disability Rights Wisconsin and the ACLU.

The systematic rejection of high need students by private school choice programs creates a disproportionate burden on under-resourced traditional public schools, resulting in a defacto separate and unequal dual system of education, that undermines the educational opportunity of all students that remain within an unfairly distorted learning environment.

This intentional, calculated starvation of resources weakens the traditional public schools that educate the vast majority of these vulnerable students. Meanwhile, the intense scrutiny of federal Race to the Top guidelines and test-based performance standards demonizes any lack of progress under this manufactured duress, further justifying the continued privatization of K-12 education and slashing of education budgets.

This cynical process is designed to yield only one conclusion – the traditional concept of free, quality public education must die.

The unchecked proliferation of false school choice programs will usher in a devastating redistribution of public education resources from the largest urban school districts into the hands of private education profiteers, without built-in civil rights protections, public accountability, or transparency to prevent academic segregation based on race, disability, language and poverty. Students of color, whom disproportionately rely upon traditional public education as a lifeline to the American Dream, will find this path to their aspirations abandoned, along with the Brown v. Board legacy of equal educational opportunity for all children.

All in the name of school choice.

Ernest Saadiq Morris is a youth rights advocate, civil rights and liberties lawyer, and founding director of the public education and advocacy initiative, Urban Youth Justice. He has been defeating the school-to-prison pipeline since 2004, including coordinating the largest successful mass student defense to-date (Round Rock, Texas 2006-2007). You can follow Urban Youth Justice daily on Facebook and Twitter.

*Available Now* The Color of Education podcast: Academic Segregation: Milwaukee School Vouchers vs. Special Education/Special Needs/Disability Youth

Academic Segregation: Milwaukee School Vouchers vs. Special Education/Special Needs/Disability Youth


Join host Ernest Saadiq Morris, Esq. of Urban Youth Justice in a conversation with Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, managing attorney of Disability Rights Wisconsin, and Courtney Bowie, senior attorney of the ACLU Racial Justice program, regarding their civil rights complaint to the U.S. Justice Department against the Milwaukee school vouchers program–for its exclusion of students with special needs & disabilities from enrollment in private voucher schools.

They examine how all students left behind in Milwaukee’s public schools face the negative effects of a segregated learning environment.

They also discuss how disadvantaged communities of color are publicly funding this educational discrimination that undermines their own struggle for community justice and educational equality.