Back to Program: April 25 | April 26 | April 27 | Pre-recorded Sessions

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

Lecture: 1:05pm-1:20pm 

Q&A: 1:20pm-1:30pm


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).

Presentation slides: PPT | PDF

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

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

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.

Turea M. Hutson

Turea M. Hutson, M.Ed. (she/her) is a third-year PhD candidate in the Drexel University Ph.D. program with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy. Hutson’s work has allowed her exposure to multidisciplinary research opportunities including working for the Social Dynamics of Intervention Lab at the AJ Drexel Autism Institute, in addition to the Methods Lab. Her work in the area of education policy allowed her the opportunity to serve as a member of the Pennsylvania Governors’ Transition Advisory committee on K-12 policy. Hutson’s current research focuses on the impacts of rejection in the learning environment, and the way the experience of rejection in the learning environment can yield cognitive and educational consequences. Hutson’s additional research interests include equity in education policy, racial trauma, intersectionality, assessment and measurement, and Autism in diverse communities.

Tamecah Pinkney

Tamecah Pinkney, NBCT, M.Ed., is a Black, first-year, part-time Ph.D. student in the Educational Leadership and Policy program at Drexel University’s School of Education. For the last 22 years, she has enjoyed challenging the minds of the 8th-grade Science students she teaches in Wilmington, DE. In her role as a Black teacher, she has developed a passion for connecting with her diverse students and their families. As a wife, mother of two school-aged children, full-time teacher, and part-time student, she is hyper-aware of the complex challenges of being involved and engaged in her children’s education. However, she has not let this interfere with the part she has to play as a parent and a Black educator. Consequently, her research interest focuses on how families and schools connect to improve student experiences. In the coming years, Tamecah will continue championing better home and school relationships so her middle school students can achieve and excel in their academics.
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