Conversation on Cultural Responsiveness, Anti-Racism, and Equity
Tiffany Beason, PhD
NCS3 Cultural Responsiveness, Anti-Racism, and Equity Lead
All students should be safe and supported in school. However, oftentimes our schools fall short of meeting this standard. Within our society, there are various social injustices, such as ableism, classism, homophobia, racism, sexism, and transphobia, that harm individuals from communities that have been historically marginalized and face present-day injustices. These social injustices also exist within schools, and students are harmed by them. One example of social injustice in schools is the issue of school disciplinary disproportionalities, where Black and Latinx youth experience harsher and more exclusionary disciplinary practices than their White peers who exhibit the same behaviors. Overreliance on punitive and exclusionary disciplinary practices in schools is harmful to the mental health and well-being of BIPOC students. These practices also cause students to miss out on instructional time, which in turn limits their ability to reach their full academic potential. School disciplinary systems often include policies and practices that perpetuate racism, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression.
The humane response to systemic oppression in schools is completely dismantling it and replacing oppressive structures with a system that is culturally responsive, anti-racist, and equitable. Cultural responsiveness in schools involves actively embracing diverse cultural values, beliefs, customs, and traditions in the school environment, curriculum, and mental health services and supports. In culturally responsive schools, we recognize the impact of racism and other forms of oppression on individual and community well-being, avoid pathologizing those harmed by oppression, and focus on promoting healing through building upon cultural-based strengths. In anti-racist schools, we acknowledge that racism is not solely or even predominately reflected in overt racially prejudiced acts. Rather, racism is often perpetuated by individuals supporting racist policies through action or inactions. Therefore, anti-racism in schools involves actively and intentionally identifying and abandoning racist school policies and practices. Finally, we aim to promote equity, ensuring that every student has what they need to experience wellness and success.
At the National Center for Safe Supportive Schools (NCS3), we aim to foster safety and support of all students through trauma-informed, healing-centered school mental health that is culturally responsive, anti-racist, and equitable. The NCS3 team is actively balancing the urgent need to respond to harmful school systems with the knowledge that all our actions must be thoughtfully and intentionally well planned and implemented.
In our process of promoting safe and supportive schools, we are prioritizing the input of school and community leaders who value cultural responsiveness, anti-racism, and equity to inform our training and implementation support efforts. We understand that this work requires an “all hands on deck” approach. Therefore, we are inviting all those who uphold these values to join us for a national conversation to inform our national training and implementation support efforts.
We want to hear from the field about important issues that will inform our work, including:
What language best reflects our work?
What policies and practices are necessary to support BIPOC and newcomer (refugee and immigrant) youth and families?
What is the preferred balance of didactic, reflection, and application/action during trainings related to CARE?
What resources exist to inform our work?
What resources do not yet exist but could advance the work if developed?
We are eager to lift up this important conversation on Friday, April 23rd, 2:30-3:30 pm, EST.