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Thank you to this episode’s sponsor! The University of Houston has a phenomenal social work program that offers face-to-face master's and doctorate degrees, as well as an online and hybrid MSW. They offer one of the country’s only Political Social Work programs and an Abolitionist Focused Learning Opportunity. Located in the heart of Houston, the program is guided by their bold vision to achieve social, racial, economic, and political justice, local to global. In the classroom and through research, they are committed to challenging systems and reimagining ways to achieve justice and liberation. Go to http://www.uh.edu/socialwork to learn more.
In this episode, I talk with Jewel Patterson, Edgar Ibarria, and Nicole Bates about their work organizing to end the school-to-prison pipeline in California. Jewel is a lead organizer with COPE, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement, a Black-led, faith-based, grassroots nonprofit in the Inland Empire. Edgar is a senior lead organizer with CADRE, a parent-led organization in South L.A. Nicole is a movement lawyer with C4LL, The Collective for Liberatory Lawyering. They define the school-to-prison pipeline and explain how criminalization functions in schools, disproportionately affecting Black and Brown students and families. Jewel and Edgar share how they organize with students and families, as well as examples of the ways students and families are impacted. Nicole discusses the legal issues and strategies that she and other C4LL lawyers use to challenge and change legislation. We talk specifically about their work to change the law on the school discipline category called “willful defiance”, which is a vague term allowing suspensions and expulsions for “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the authority of school staff.” This change has resulted in fewer suspensions and expulsions in lower grades, yet it needs to be expanded to upper grades and high school, so the work continues. They discuss surveillance in schools, metal detectors, police in schools, the lack of counseling, and how they organize to change all of this and reimagine safety, including the victory of defunding school police 25 million dollars and reinvesting that money in a Black student achievement program. They explain how they build power, the importance of coalitions, movement lawyers, and some of the successes, as well as challenges, of their efforts. They cover so much and really break it down in ways that can provide a blueprint for others. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.