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Workshop Wednesday: Racial Equity in Learning Services

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

What does racial equity in learning services mean to you?

This is a big question and I could write pages and pages about what this means to me. Simply put, racial equity in my learning services work is a driving force behind my professional learning that is deeply personal. It is my belief that racial equity work is an ongoing endeavor because racial inequity is integrated into the fundamental design of many of our systems in America, including educational systems. Racial inequity is further upheld by individuals. Individuals who may mean well and have good intentions, but are not willing to go deeper to examine the way internalized racial oppression and dominance may show up in one's decisions and behaviors. Individuals who are aware of racial inequity and choose to do nothing (apathy) or choose to reinforce racial inequity through policies and decisions (dominance) that prioritize the racially privileged and harm those that are racially marginalized contribute to barriers preventing us from achieving racial equity.

This matters because inequity inevitably causes harm. Our school communities should be places of wellness and healthy learning, not places where inequity and harm are perpetuated and replicated at the expense of our students' well-being.

As a learning specialist, former special education teacher, student services coordinator (special education compliance), doctoral student, and adjunct professor in special education, a primary function of my professional role is to understand and advocate with and for the rights of students. I am an able-bodied, non-disabled person. This part of my identity affords me unearned privileges and advantages because of the way our systems (societal, educational, political, etc.) are designed to normalize and prioritize the needs and experience of able-bodied people over people with disabilities.

Over the past few years, I have engaged in personal identity work as a way to counteract the fact that reflecting on the dimensions, nuances, and power dynamics of identity was not part of my educator training or schooling growing up. Prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2015, I did not question how I experienced privilege or oppression, nor did I examine how my identity impacted my experiences as a student or a teacher of special education students. Since then, I have engaged in ongoing work to examine, understand, and disrupt inequity in myself, my practices, my relationships, and the work I do in schools. Being both a participant and a facilitator with the National SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) has been a source of high-quality learning materials and support focused on advancing equity one conversation at a time.

Since beginning my career in education over 15 years ago in 2003, I have worked at the individual and institutional level to create equitable systems of support that benefit students. I continue to use the action research methods and evaluation approaches that I learned in my doctoral program to constantly evolve my practice as I work to address inequities in educational spaces.

As a woman of color, who experiences varying degrees of identity privilege and marginalization, I am keenly aware of my responsibility to share what I have learned about disrupting racial inequity, ableism, and other forms of oppression with my cohort of learning specialists and fellow educators. In January 2022, I will be facilitating a three-part virtual series called Beyond Inclusion and Support: Racial Equity in Learning Services with Elizabeth Denevi. This series will provide a starting point for answering the question, "How can I build my capacity to act as an advocate for racial equity in my role as a learning specialist?" Together we will create space for conversations about leveraging our roles and positionalities to advance equity in our school practices, procedures, and systems.

I invite my fellow learning specialists, special educators, educational therapists, and leaders in disability education to join me in advancing our movement towards equity, one action-oriented conversation at a time.

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