Disproportionality Workgroup Sessions
Disproportionality is defined by the US Department of Education as "the over-representation of a specific group in special education programs or disciplinary outcomes relative to the presence of the group in the overall student population, and/or the underrepresentation of a specific group in accessing intervention services, resources, programs, rigorous curriculum, advanced placement courses, and instruction relative to the presence of the group in the overall student population."
Each school is represented by a team consisting of the building principal, guardian of equity (teacher leader), literacy/instructional coach(es), school psychologist, Scholars for Social Justice (high school), and parent representative. School teams receive training in culturally responsive education, root cause analysis, disproportionate academic and behavior outcomes, implicit biases, research and book study activities from experts in the field, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Team members also serve on the school's CLRI team and continually work together to develop, reflect upon, and revise their school's CLRI action plan (template).
From the launch of the 2022-2023 Disproportionality Training Series on October 6, 2022, to the final session held on January 19, 2023, the Office of CLRI intentionally provided space for participants to engage in collective healing practices, opportunities to speak their truths, and be vulnerable while examining solutions to address the ongoing pain and trauma experienced by our students and district community as a result of the racist massacre that took place at Tops on May 14th, 2022. In an effort to center joy and uplift the beauty and strengths of our community, this year's Disproportionality Training Sessions encouraged schools to focus on Community Building Through Centering Joy. Featured guest speakers included: Darius G. Pridgen, City of Buffalo Common Council President, Solana Booth, Indigenous Traditional Medicine Keeper and Story Teller, Dr. Monique Couvson, renowned author, expert, and social justice advocate for girls and women of color, and Dr. Donald Grant, psychologist and international workshop facilitator. The Office of CLRI sends gratitude to Villa Maria College for its partnership and support, as well as the Office of Shared Accountability, under the leadership of Chief Ebony Bullock, and the Special Education Department, led by Assistant Superintendent Kim Hoelscher, for their presentations throughout the year on disproportionality. Additional thank yous go to all District School Teams who presented on best practices for Building Community Through Centering Joy.
In 2021-2022, the theme of hope and healing was threaded throughout the disproportionality training sessions. This series of sessions was kicked off in October 2021 with a Distinguished Parents and Caregivers Panel Discussion, in which panelists responded to a series of questions on topics that included: building relationships, sustaining a culturally responsive and welcoming environment, issues of race and racism and how they impact our children, the COVID-19 Pandemic, and violence impacting our community. Featured guest speakers included: Dr. Angel Acosta, who led participants through guided healing-centered mindfulness practices, Anthony Ray Hinton, an innnocent man who was wrongly convicted of murder and served nearly 30 years on death row before being released in 2015, and Renée Watson, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, educator, and community activist who is the co-author of the District's 2022 African American Read-In featured book, Born on the Water. The sessions concluded in February 2022 with the sharing of each school's hopes for their school community, as well as CLRI actionable practices connected to hope and healing.
Using the 2020-2021 Disproportionality Training Sessions' Theme, Emancipation Curriculum and Pedagogy: Freeing the Minds of Our Young People, as a foundation, participants continued to dive deeper with culturally responsive education learning modules. Featured guest speakers included: Dr. Christopher Emdin, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, and Dr. Gholdy Muhammad. Through these empowering keynotes, district stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, board members, community members, parents, and scholars learned the power of saying to our young people, "I honor you. This is YOUR classroom (or learning space)," and "You are a genius, by virtue of your existence" (Dr. Emdin). While we adjusted to collectively learning and gathering in a virtual setting, participants engaged in courageous dialogues and personally reflected on their antiracist journeys, using such words from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi as a guide: “Decades and decades of injustice cannot just be swept under the rug any longer. It cannot be suppressed any longer. It is vital for us to ADMIT these injustices happened, and accept responsibility for them. It is time to heal and it will take a long time. We need to be WILLING… and honest with ourselves, and present the TRUTHS to our students so they can learn as we are healing.”
Additionally, in January 2021, a Distinguished Panel of Scholars raised their voices around the following issues impacting students: virtual learning, the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and curriculum being taught in schools. Scholars addressed how schools are currently creating spaces for students to voice their concerns around these issues. Scholars also spoke in great detail about the Capitol Insurrection that took place on January 6th, 2021 and the disparate, unequal treatment between peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters and the racist rioters who attempted an insurrection on American democracy. This group of distinguished student panelists made for an amazing and enriching, culturally and linguistically responsive learning experience for all involved.
In the 2019-2020 school year, Disproportionality School Teams built upon previous culturally responsive education trainings to focus on addressing systemic implicit bias, the school-to-prison pipeline, and culturally responsive practices that support in eradicating disproportionality. Participants engaged in group dialogues to discuss racism, implicit biases, identity, and personal and professional experiences in order to develop strategies for dismantling disproportionality in the Buffalo Public Schools. Interactive experiences, including a history walk depicting the impact of racial injustices on educational access for African Americans, text engagement activities connecting key learnings to the focus book, Black Male(d), and screenings of the films, PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools and True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality, supported participants in diving deep with these topics.
Distinguished Scholars - Panel Discussion
Dr. Gholdy Muhammad
A History of Black Education in America
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