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!
Urban Youth Justice presents: The Color of Education podcast episode – “Police in Public Schools: Chicago’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Exposed by Research Activist”
Join host Ernest Saadiq Morris of Urban Youth Justice in a conversation with activist and Depaul University sociologist Frank Edwards, co-author of the Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline research report (co-written with Mariame Kaba of Project NIA).
They discuss how the constant police presence in Chicago schools criminalizes students of color by subjecting them to criminal justice penalties for common school-based infractions, resulting in higher rates of incarceration and unemployment.
They also discuss the need for more Research Activism nationwide as a tool to keep school and police policymakers accountable for their negative impacts upon youth of color and their communities; and reveal a blueprint of methods for activists to follow in their own communties.
Read Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline report here:
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).
Urban Youth Justice presents: The Color of Education – Academic Segregation:Milwaukee School Vouchers vs Special Education/Special Needs/Disability Youth
Urban Youth Justice presents: The Color of Education – New School Segregation Series: 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.
Join Ernest Saadiq Morris of Urban Youth Justice and Mariame Kaba of Project NIA as they examine the high arrest rates of Chicago’s Black & Latino youth and its harmful effect on their communities.
They also discuss community solutions to reduce the role of disproportionate minority youth contacts with police and the school-to-prison pipeline as the New Jim Crow gateway to mass incarceration.
“We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race […] deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.” – U.S. Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education(1954)
Corporate education reformers have imposed an unrealistic goal of achieving a standardized “lock-step” performance from diverse student populations that many public school districts have adopted and thus cultivated a toxic combination of pressure and bias.
The pressure from high stakes test-based performance assessments leaves no incentive for teachers and administrators to invest general education class time for individualized attention or to implement diverse culturally responsive teaching methods. Therefore, a student that falls behind academically is at high risk of being labeled and stigmatized as a “slow learner” and falsely placed in special education or an inferior academic track.
As a result, the labeling of youth of color as “difficult-to-teach” as the basis for a special education referral is a far too easy pretext for implicit cultural bias or self-serving classroom management. At-risk youth of color demonstrating verbal defiance, physical aggression or inattention can often be corrected through supports within a general education setting, as well as better teacher training in culturally responsive methodology, instead of special education referrals.
Special education warehousing of Black youth and other youth of color is rampant in too many urban school districts. Special education warehousing is the disproportionate removal of youth of color from general education classrooms through referrals to special education classrooms that segregate them from the student population. Disproportionality occurs when the percentage of Black youth in special education —or a similarly situated special education subgroup, such as Latino/Hispanic English Language Learner students— is not proportionate to their percentage in the school or district’s general population.
This practice is similar to the post-Brown v. Board era practice of discriminatory labeling of Black and Latino students as mildly retarded in order to dump them in segregated classrooms — in an attempt to avoid the legally required integration of public schools. This practice was eventually prohibited by multiple lawsuits.
In Houston, Texas, a Fall 2010 audit commissioned by School Superintendent Terry Grier revealed that a majority of the Houston Independent School District(HISD)’s 16,386 special education students are Black youth. Worse, their placement was based on disproportionate labeling of Black students as mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed. Hispanic English Language Learner students were similarly over-identified for special education placement in junior high and high school grades suggesting that they received inadequate language assistance in elementary grades that resulted in false special education labeling in the later grades.
Likewise, Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen commissioned a report which found that its African-American students were overrepresented within special education programs. Black youth made up only 12 percent of all enrolled student, yet were identified as 24 percent of students labeled with intellectual disabilities and 33 percent of students labeled as having an emotional/behavioral disability.
In May 2010, the Palo Alto Unified School District was issued a notification letter by the California Department of Education as one of 17 seventeen school districts statewide that had “significant disproportionality” in its special education referrals of Black and Latino youth. For instance, one district middle school placed 55 percent of its Latino students and 33 percent of its Black students in special education in 2009-2010.
Federal law requires that all K-12 students with disabilities receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. Even for falsely labeled special education youth of color, the denial of that labeled student’s FAPE is a serious matter. Furthermore, special education warehousing of urban youth of color often involves an inferior, non-remedial educational curriculum with uncertified or inexperienced teachers within an isolated and/or segregated environment. The Georgia Department of Education’s 2009-2010 special education annual report verified that African-American students are overrepresented statewide in special education classrooms. According to the report, African-American students make up 47% of students labeled with Emotional Behavioral Disorders and 57%of the students with Intellectual Disabilities. The report also noted that Black students are more likely to be isolated in a special education classroom away from their general education peers. Racially disproportionate segregation is evidence of the denial of the FAPE guarantee to Black special education students and a violation of federal law.
Zero tolerance discipline combined with high stakes testing increases the discriminatory impact of the School-to-Prison Pipeline on the educational results and criminal justice consequences for special education students of color. African-American and Latino students, as well as special education students, each separately face disproportionate rates of disciplinary referrals. Accordingly, special education students of color face dual risk of higher rates of disciplinary referrals for suspensions, alternative school assignments, and expulsions, which correlate to lower graduation rates. Thus, the discriminatory impact of disproportionate special education placement of youth of color not only constitutes denial of a quality education but also increases the risk of referrals to the criminal justice system and future incarceration.
Ultimately, special education warehousing, i.e., the disproportionate placement of youth of color in special education, undermines the post-Brown v. Board meaning and purpose of public education. It is the modern manifestation of the Jim Crow origins of separate and unequal education discrimination that perpetuates race-based structural barriers to equal educational opportunity. Education reform should not be a proxy for the continued marginalization and criminalization of Black youth and other youth of color due to the pursuit of a standardized performance that encourages structural inequality and implicit bias in special education referrals and school discipline.
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. You can follow Urban Youth Justice daily on Facebook and Twitter.