ThirdWay Solutions is part of a movement to ensure every organization in the public, private, nonprofit, policy and advocacy sectors reflects the gifts and voices inherent in America’s racial, gender and other diversity — especially in leadership and positions of power.
We hope you are staying as safe and productive as possible as the reach of the pandemic continues to grow. We are grateful for educators like you, who are out there making it happen for kids and families in the face of so much adversity.
We are writing to share three quick updates:
- This Thursday, our CEO, Cami Anderson will be participating in an important discussion about attending to students’ social and emotional well-being right now. Connectivity and on-line learning have taken front stage for much of 2020 and that is, to some extent, necessary. At DRP, we believe that schools should be thinking just as deeply about how to support students’ social and emotional needs. The Path Back to School – Episode 5: Social Emotional Learning will be on Oct 21, 2020 01:00 PM Eastern Time. You can register here.
- An important article by Erica Green, Mark Walker, and Eliza Shapiro ran in the New York Times about the microaggressions and outright racism experienced by Black girls in school. An equally critical study by Dan Losen and his colleagues came out this month showing that in 28 districts, middle and high school students lose more than a year of instruction due to suspensions. Both are a must read.
- This Thursday, DRP Contributor, April Dinwoodie ,will be hosting a panel about multi-racial and multicultural families and our CEO, Cami, will be on the panel. Race & Culture in Adoption and Foster Care – Virtual Series, sponsored by the Center for Advanced Practices at Adoption RI and NAACP. To register, click here.
We have three new offerings we want you to be aware of:
- DRP is launching Communities of Practices in cities and states across the country. Groups of district and charter systems come together and participate in a 5 to 10-part virtual series. The learning series helps system leaders (with teams of 4 – 6 people) explore what needs to be true to shift away from harsh, biased, punitive discipline practices. We explore research and promising practices that help create conditions that prevent students from using negative behavior to communicate and build systems that help schools respond to struggle, incidents, and difference skillfully.
- Furthering our core mission, DRP is taking the lead in rethinking, reimagining and eliminating the need for school resource officers and/or school police. Our team partners with systems for 12 -18 months, helping build systems tailored to the needs of each unique community where all students feel psychologically, physically and emotionally safe.
- Our core model of helping systems conduct EQUITY audits using our framework that has proven successful across the country can now be done virtually. Our team has updated our tools and products to ensure clients can access the learning even while travel is limited.
Cami and the DRP Team
What a challenging school opening season this is. We are sending you strength and well wishes as you navigate impossible decisions and try to build a new plane mid-flight. We’ve been busy, like many of you, and wanted to catch you up.
- What “Defund Police” Means for Us: Calls to defund police and to examine racist and biased policies are becoming even more urgent in the education sector. Cami appeared on Bloomberg News with a panel of experts to talk about what the defund police movement should mean for schools — emphasizing the work is about much more than kicking police officers out of buildings.
- A Blueprint to Remove Police from Schools: In this piece, ‘Police-Free Schools’ Vs. ‘Chaos’ Is a False Choice. Here’s What Districts Must Do to Implement Real Discipline Reform — our team lays out a specific plan of action that goes beyond slogans. We feel the urgency to help systems tear down discipline systems that over-police Black, Latinx, and LGBTQQ students and students with disabilities. And, we know we have to replace it with something better while keeping kids physically and emotionally safe.
- Discipline and Inclusion During COVID: In the age of COVID, we are seeing systems that have not critically examined the dire consequences of exclusionary and biased discipline systems doubling down and making terrible choices even in virtual and hybrid environments. Cami talked to the Huffington Post about the fact that we are likely to see more, not less, struggles and incidents right now and that we need to be more prepared than ever to respond in ways that keep kids learning.
- The Long Tail of Change: DRP is lucky to work with Tangipahoa School District in Louisiana for several years — both on creating more anti-biased, anti-racist cultures in all schools and reexamining policies and practices with an equity lens, but also in radically rethinking their approach to “alternative schools.” Shout out to recent press about the continued progress there, even in the face of enormous challenges.
- The Intersection of Instruction, SEL, and ABAR work: Instruction Partners — a partner organization with whom we collaborate — is doing exceptional work helping districts, states, and CMOs transition to high-quality hybrid and on-line instruction. Cami recently talked to their CEO, Emily Freitag, about the need to think about that work alongside supporting students’ social and emotional well-being and building anti-racist and anti-biased cultures.
We hope you and your team make time to ask yourselves some critical questions:
- Are you rethinking what “discipline” policies should look like in a virtual, hybrid, or in-person environment? Is your team prepared to be even more skillful in handling the increasing amount of conflict we are likely to see in face of collective trauma?
- Have you taken time to work with administrators, central teams, and teachers to process and embrace how their jobs have changed — beyond issuing new roles and responsibilities documents? Are they invested in solving problems in a bottoms-up way?
- Everyone is in a learning space — and we can do so much more virtual learning for adults right now. Are we using this time to help adults get better at (a) building purposeful, trusting relationships with students, (b) responding skillfully to difference, struggle, and conflict, and (c) partnering with families in much deeper ways?
- Do you have MOUs governing how you work with police? Child welfare agencies? Are you eliminating or reinventing the role of school resource officers? How are you going about that process and what needs to be true for that to mean more psychological and physical safety for students? How is your security staff trained?
- Are you an actively ABAR (Anti-biased and Anti-racist) organization? What does that mean? Look like, sound like, feel like? Is your core team engaged in personal reflection about the extent to which they are critically conscious leaders? Have you reviewed all of your people, practices, policies, and partnerships with an ABAR lens?
If you read the list of questions and thought — wow, these topics are not getting enough attention right now, we can help. We fully appreciate why so many have prioritized instructional models and health protocols — but we deeply believe that you have to think about those things alongside culture and climate and equity.
Thank you for the work you do; we honestly cannot think of a more important time to be an educator than now,
Cami and the DRP Team
DRP Members and Partners:
Like many of you, our team experienced horror and sadness as videos and audio tapes revealed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd being murdered by police. Black Americans — sisters, fathers, friends, and partners — living their lives, sleeping in their homes, going for a jog, and running errands are no longer with us simply because of the color of their skin. These are not isolated incidents.
Black people were 24% of those killed by police last year despite being only 13% of the population. Indeed, we all breathe poisonous air polluted with anti-Blackness that manifests in so many ways, including in education. To our Black colleagues and friends, we are sending you extra love, knowing you have to show up for your students while taking care of your families and yourselves.
Our mission at The Discipline Revolution Project (soon-to-be-named The 20% Project) is to (1) support schools and systems leaders to build anti-racist/anti-biased, high expectation, high support cultures, (2) put in place robust family and student supports, and (3) actively tear down policies and practices that cement inequities. Our work has never been more urgent.
We are glad to see the outrage about racial disparities in policing and we know the same biases that exist in broader society play out and, in some cases are exacerbated, in classrooms and school buildings. This isn’t a time to point fingers, it is a time to act within our own sphere of influence. Many of you have reached out for ideas and resources and, in that spirit, our team is sharing what we call a “2x3x1.” In keeping with our EQUITY Framework and our organizational values, we are sharing two things we recommend you do now, three things you should think about over the summer, and one thing we hope you do personally to help realize racial justice.
- As educators, do not look away, don’t say nothing. All of your students are watching the news, scanning social media, and talking to their friends about the events that led up to this week and how things are unfolding. If you are still in school, create a safe container to talk about what is happening with your students — some good resources are from Teaching Tolerance and Morningside Center. If you are already out for this term, use the time to prepare so you are ready when you do reconnect with students.
- Combat existing narratives that Black residents are somehow to be “blamed” for dying at the hands of police or expressing outrage. White, Black and brown young people might be hearing this from the media, friends and family. I’ve had piercing questions about this from all the young people in my life — my son, nieces, nephews, students, and mentees — across socio-economic and racial lines. The narrative is prevalent. Read this piece by Adam Sewer that talks about America’s racial contract. Or, consider this piece about the context behind the rebellion in Ferguson. Facing History and Ourselves compiled data on the history of policing to help put this moment in broader content.
- Look at your discipline data, practices, and policies as urgently as you call for police to change their ways — build the skill and will of educators to de-escalate conflict, build healthy relationships with an understanding of how power and race plays out, facilitate community, partner with families, and actively interrogate their own biases; consider:
- Nationally, Black students are between 2.5 and 4 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their White peers. Black families report that often the only time they hear from their child’s school is when they are in trouble.
- Black students are physically restrained in schools more than their White peers.
- These are life altering disparities as even one suspension dramatically increases students’ chances of being connected to the juvenile justice system and then, a racist criminal justice system for life.
- In recent studies, Black boys received far more negative attention than their White peers and Black girls were rated “less innocent” in a survey of teachers (from Black and White teachers, though the outcomes are worse with White teachers).
- Schools value kids who push back on authority, “think out of the box”, and march to their own drummer as long as they are White; Black kids with the same characteristics are too often feared, punished, and controlled. Psychological and emotional safety are just as critical as physical safety.
- Rethink “escalation protocols” and when and how you involve law enforcement — negotiate memorandums of agreement, engage in joint training about relationship building, de-escalation, and anti-bias work, build shared values and language around how to engage young people; consider:
- 50% of school-based arrests are of Black students even though they make up 16% of the student population
- The connection between school discipline and problematic policing is tighter than we think. It’s time for educators to step up. It is our moral imperative.
- School and systems leaders must be active in pushing law enforcement to take a proactive, developmentally appropriate and anti-racist approach to engaging young people, not simply call them when things get “out of control.”
- Overall, we should severely limit the amount of police interaction that occurs in schools (only when absolutely necessary) – and we should be working proactively to build shared value for our children’s psychological and physical safety.
- Actively examine your instructional practices — the who, what and the how — pick content that is pro-Black/Latin-X/Indigenous, recruit and retain educators of color, give all kids access to rigorous and culturally competent instruction and assignments, and prioritize building school and classroom cultures; consider:
- We see and hear Black (and brown) students less than their peers: in almost every school climate and culture study, Black students report they feel less safe, less connected to school, and less connected to a caring adult than their White peers. This can be soul-crushing for students and have profound effects on their school experience and their life prospects.
- We expect less from Black students: Black students are exposed to content and assignments that are far below grade-level. Black students report that adults underestimate their intelligence and expect less of them.
- Black students rarely “see” themselves accurately represented in history or in any materials. Little, if anything, is taught about great Black civilizations, leaders, and contributions. And, to the extent we teach about the founding of our country or the civil rights movement or slavery, our curricula too often leaves out the tough stuff about the role institutional racism has played throughout. Curricula, books, and supplemental materials present White people in a favorable light and Black people in an unfavorable light. We need to seek and create better and more pro-Black content.
- Having even one Black educator can increase a Black student’s likelihood of graduating by 13%.
To our White colleagues and friends: Let’s not make Black people do all the work right now, or ever. Let’s take time to further educate ourselves and others, reflect and “be the change”. I am happy to schedule a call if you want a thought partner, but here are some initial ideas. If you haven’t already (I know some of you have) let’s commit to:
- Continually educating ourselves about how our country has promoted a White-normative culture that has perpetuated White supremacy — and how that influences all of us. Kendi put together an anti-racist reading list here. Consider what we gravitate towards as we consume narratives, content, and products. Our choices could be causing “confirmation bias” (e.g., if all you read or experience is from a White perspective, you are likely missing something).
- If you are raising kids or play a primary person role to any kids, consistently practicing (you never “arrive” — I read and practice every single day) raising them to be race-conscious and anti-racist; some good and comprehensive resources (including readings, blogs, associations, children’s books, podcasts and more) are found here.
- Getting in the arena — pushing ourselves not only to be an allies but rather co-conspirators — and knowing the difference. Not just talking, but acting — including and especially when it is uncomfortable.
- Actively engaging other White friends, colleagues, and family in everything we are learning – and encouraging them to learn and discuss with their circle too. As educators, we cannot see this work as “nice to have” but as essential and urgent if we are going to do right by all of the students.
To all members of the DRP community: We believe biases exist in all of us and that we all have an obligation to understand how implicit biases are cemented — even in “good people.” Cumulative “micro aggressions” cause students to shut down, disconnect, or worse. Too often, Black students experience toxic or unsupportive school cultures and so do students who are LGBTQQ, students who are growing up in non-traditional family structures, students with disabilities, and students whose families are immigrants.
We need to make this a moment of real change. We also can’t make this only about police reform — because we have so much to do in education too. And we have moral obligation not just to critique and observe problems, but to actively solve the ones within our control.
As always, we are here to support you and your team as you navigate these rough waters.
In partnership, Cami and the DRP team