A Novel Way to Address the Disproportionate Rate at which Youth with Disabilities are Overrepresented in the School-to-Prison Nexus
Tiffani D. Hurst, Monét Harbison, Tryphaena Hooper, Turea Hutson, Tamecah Pinkney
Date: April 26, 2023
This presentation addresses disproportionality—the disparate rate at which youth with disabilities, minoritized youth, and low-income youth, are overrepresented in the school-to-prison nexus. This problem is important because disproportionality hinders student learning processes and outcomes. The focus by the scholarly majority on dismantling zero tolerance policies as a way to address disproportionality is flawed because disproportionality existed prior to the enactment of zero tolerance policies. Some scholars argue that the problem should be addressed using restorative justice strategies (Gonzalez, 2012), increasing authentic community and parent connections (Moll, Amanti, Neff & Gonzalez, 1992), limiting the use of long-term disciplinary removal (Noguera, 2003), and taking an intersectional view of students’ race and disability status (Annamma, 2014). While each of these solutions is important, none will work without first educating practitioners about students’ cultural backgrounds (Ladson-Billings, 2005, 2006). Although Ladson-Billing’s (2005) solution of practitioner cultural competency has been criticized by some scholars as elusive, the use of Lindsey’s (2019) cultural proficiency framework, when combined with the collaborative computer program, VSorts™, appears promising. VSorts™ involves the collaborative development of culturally competent carceral vignettes which educate practitioners regarding solutions to disproportionality and train practitioners on complex topics in a way that promotes critical self-reflection and conversation within a safe professional learning environment (Cormier, 2022). Such a professional computerized learning environment can mitigate cognitive dissonance: the disagreeable feeling people experience when a new belief or action conflicts with a pre-existing belief or action (Harmon-Johns & Mills, 2019).
About the Speakers
Tiffani D. Hurst
Tiffani D. Hurst, J.D. (she/her), is a second-year PhD candidate in the Drexel University Ph.D. program with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy. Hurst spent 25 years as a criminal defense attorney during which she became convinced that cultural competency in education was key to interrupting the school to prison nexus and the disproportionality therein of students of color and students with disabilities. Ultimately, Hurst sees the intersection of asset-based pedagogy, cultural pedagogies, and community capital as a way to accomplish her long-term goal of interrupting the school to prison nexus. She is currently researching concrete steps that educators can take to develop and use a culturally competent disciplinary lens as they implement these practices. Hurst also obtained a M.S. in Special Education at Drexel with the goal of learning how to help stakeholders better navigate the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) process.
Monét Harbison, M.S.Ed. is a Black, neurodivergent, first-generation student and a proud mother, who is deeply committed to her role as a second-year, part-time Ph.D. student at Drexel University’s School of Education. As a Philadelphia native who has witnessed the increasing gentrification of her community, Monét brings a wealth of personal experience and understanding of classism, ableism, sexism, and racism into her research. Her primary focus is on examining colonialism and its lasting impacts within the educational system through a critical constructivist lens, drawing from her unique perspective as a Black woman navigating these complex issues. Monét utilizes innovative narrative inquiry methods to enrich her research and seeks to create a more inclusive and equitable educational environment by addressing the influences of power, privilege, and historical legacies. Through her work and advocacy, Monét aims to challenge and dismantle oppressive structures in education, promoting a fair and just system for all.
Tryphaena Hooper, J.D. is a Black, neurodivergent Ph.D. student in Educational Leadership and Policy at Drexel University’s School of Education. Her research interests focus on exploring and understanding the ways in which power and privilege shape the special education system and impact Black students and their families through a critical constructivist perspective. As a mother of two school-aged children, she has firsthand experience navigating the special educational system as both a parent, advocate, and a student. Tryphaena is a first-generation college graduate who has also obtained degrees in law and public health. Through her work, Tryphaena aims to advocate for more equitable and inclusive educational practices for Black students.