Session: Restoring What? Critical Social Work at the Nexus of Discipline and Justice in Schools (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

45 Restoring What? Critical Social Work at the Nexus of Discipline and Justice in Schools

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 2:45 PM-3:45 PM
Cluster: School Social Work
Andrea Joseph, PhD, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Brita Bookser, MA, University of California, Berkeley, Ceema Samimi, PhD, MSSW, MPA, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Jelena Todic, PhD, The University of Texas at San Antonio, College for Health, Community and Policy, Department of Social Work and Chellie Fernandez, MSW, Up Partnership
Students of color, Black girls, students with special education needs, LGBTQ students, and low-income students are disproportionately impacted by exclusionary school discipline throughout preK-12 education (Gilliam, 2005; Losen et al., 2015; Blake, Butler, Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011). This matters because experiencing suspension and expulsion significantly increases the likelihood of subsequent exclusionary discipline, being held back a grade, failing to graduate, and becoming involved in the legal system (Fabelo et al., 2011; Losen & Gillespie, 2012; Skiba & Rausch, 2006). In the race to eliminate discipline disparities, schools and districts across the United States have implemented individual and school-wide interventions. These include positive behavior interventions systems, restorative justice (RJ) practices, trauma-informed-care practices, yoga, and youth courts. Interventions are intended to improve interpersonal relationships, mutual understanding, and regulate behaviors. Few studies, however, show that these interventions are effective at eliminating disparities. We argue that school discipline disparities persist because interventions are framed from logics of neutrality — that is, from race-neutral, ahistorical, and apolitical frameworks. Moreover, interventions may be devoid of values and mechanisms that overtly challenge retributive policies and punitive adult dispositions. Few interventions account for the way socio-historical inequities, policies, and interpersonal factors create and sustain inequities in school discipline. In this roundtable, we describe both the barriers to and agents for reducing inequitable discipline practices and layout the roles that social work scholars and practitioners can play to promote just schooling. Our discussion will draw on interdisciplinary literatures and findings across four school-based studies to describe the peril of utilizing race- and gender-neutral interventions to address racialized and gendered phenomena. Results are explained within the context of womanist anti-carceral and critical race theory tenets. Specifically, we highlight the need to reject colorblind practices, assumptions of neutrality, and neoliberal solutions to inequities. The first study will discuss the trajectory of exclusion and inclusion across preK-12 education. The second study will problematize the presence and highlight the function of race-neutral frameworks on the implementation of RJ practices. The third study will present findings of a formative evaluation of the Rethinking Discipline Community of Practice Pilot, a project spearheaded by Up Partnership and nine K-12 schools in San Antonio, TX. This study will cover (1) the role of communities of practice in supporting RJ implementation integrity, (2) the challenges with RJ implementation in a neoliberal K-12 education system, (3) the importance of an observation-action research paradigm, and (4) the need to pair RJ practices with trainings that support critical consciousness (e.g., intergroup dialogue). Finally, a fourth study will present best practices based on the literature and findings from a large urban district that was successful in reducing disproportionate suspensions of Black students. Best practices will include the role of (1) school leadership, (2) white teachers, and (3) RJ implementation integrity in creating the culture shift necessary for reducing inequities in school discipline and, ultimately, eliminating punitive responses to students’ behaviors. This roundtable discussion will engage participants in exploring implications for anti-oppressive, equity-focused, school-based social work practices, policies, and research.
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