Interrupting Racism: Equity and Social Justice in School Counseling
Interrupting Racism provides school counselors with a brief overview of racial equity in schools and practical ideas that a school-level practitioner can put into action. The book walks readers through the current state of achievement gap and racial equity in schools and looks at issues around intention, action, white privilege, and implicit bias. Later chapters include interrupting racism case studies and stories from school counselors about incorporating stakeholders into the work of racial equity. Activities, lessons, and action plans promote self-reflection, staff-reflection, and student-reflection and encourage school counselors to drive systemic change for students through advocacy, collaboration, and leadership.
Rebecca Atkins is Senior Administrator of Elementary Counseling in the Wake County Public School System after serving 12 years as a school counselor. She frequently presents at state and national conferences and has published about the topics of transition and equity.
Alicia Oglesby is a Professional High School Counselor in Washington, DC. With an extensive background in serving low-income black communities, she continues to advocate for equity on the local and national level.
Part 1: Building a Foundation of Understanding
Chapter 1: A Brief History: Integration, The Achievement Gap, and Student Success
The history of education in America is initially separate and unequal. This chapter describes the events surrounding the famous Brown versus Board of Education ruling, the instances of attempting integration throughout the country and the subsequent treatment of black students in school. Theories of student achievement are compared including assumptions about inherited characteristics and contemporary “whole-child” philosophies. As racial segregation resurges, common myths and stereotypes about people of color also resurface. Challenges to these myths and stereotypes are confronted and explained. The role of the school counselor as a leader in combating myths and stereotypes is illustrated. School counseling is described as in itself a change agent. To begin, we list instances of culturally responsive programming in various cities. These examples are to be lauded as anti-racist education.
Chapter 2: White Privilege: A Taboo of Advantage
White privilege is real. People of all races can share examples of how they have seen the advantage. Why do some people resist, reject, or deny the concept of white privilege? Discuss the process of exploring white privilege in conversation while maintaining a safe and collaborative environment and explore the difference between safe and collaborative environments for discussion and comfort level. If schools begin to actively combat white privilege, what has to be given up? This chapter discusses the ethical mandate of school counselors to act against privilege to allow positive opportunities for all students.
Chapter 3: Implicit Bias: A Disconnect between Intention and Outcome
Implicit Bias is judgement based in subtle cognitive processes. Because implicit bias happens so subtly, it affects our behavior and choices in ways that we may not notice. In education, we have a divide between what we intend and the actions we take. The achievement gap is a result of this divide. Confirmation bias furthers the explicit belief that students of color cannot achieve in the same way as white students. In order to change our action, we must break the habit of implicit bias by shining a light on the subtle cognitive processes that lead to inequity. We must interrupt racism when we see it in others, in our schools, and within ourselves through cultural proficiency and ethical decision making as school counselors. The first step is reflection so that we can identify implicit bias when it happens.
Part 2: Building Change
Chapter 4 The Benefit of Self Reflection: The Work Begins With You
According to the Brofenbrenner’s Center for Translational Research (BCTR) at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, our first step in systemic change is the individual (BCTR, 2014). The ecological systems of individual, family, relationships with others, and relationships with systems are pivotal in understanding how to be an agent of social change. As practitioners, we cannot ignite change if we have not interrupted our own implicit biases. A set of self-reflection activities will support readers who choose to begin this process. Activities are designed in a way that supports the book’s use in professional learning communities and book clubs to guide self-reflection discussions about interrupting racism. Insightful reflection is the foundation to understand the origin one’s belief system.
Chapter 5: Teach Them Well: Anti-Bias Social Emotional Learning for Students
School counselors can lead efforts to increase students’ social emotional learning in the area of anti-bias education. Often diversity activities for students are snapshots of differences and lack a component of self-reflection. K-12 activities are based on the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards and are designed to be used in lessons, groups, and clubs. Social Emotional Learning is not just for school counselors but school counselors are in the unique position to guide the social emotional core instruction taking place at their school.
Chapter 6 The Benefit of Staff Reflection: The Work Continues With Everyone
The individual counselor works within an educational system. For practitioners, the school building is the system where they can affect the most change. A set of staff-reflection activities for school processes, procedures, and protocols is the next step of systemic change. Activities are designed in a way to support the school counselor in leading professional development in their school, leadership teams, or student services departments. Involvement at the local government level is also included as a possible mode of advocacy.
Part 3: Building Capacity of Stakeholders
Chapter 7: Stories from the Field: Real World Application of Equity in School Counseling
Interviewing school counselors about their work, examples of best practice as stories from the field. In the real world application of equity in school counselors, examples of equity work include faculty book studies on equity, talking to students about racism, empowering minority students, increasing African American enrollment in STEM, equity within Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) and the school improvement plan (SIP) process through the use of data for equity.
Chapter 8 Interrupting Racism: Everyday Scenarios
Every day there are opportunities for school counselors to learn. This chapter offers many chances for practice with example scenarios of racism and implicit bias that counselors may encounter in their school. Scenarios will include reflection questions for the practitioner and suggested responses based on situations that involve disciplinary action, the use of language to be anti-racist, civic activism, shared community beliefs and district-wide advocacy. Part of the work requiring us to respond and interrupt race-related comments and behaviors is preparation and practice.
Chapter 9: Utilizing Data for Systemic Change
Looking at schoolwide data, where can schools begin to promote access and equity for all students? This chapter guides school leadership teams, Professional Learning Communities, and counselors to further examine their data in order to use data as a tool for decision making. A deeper look into systemic change, including understanding needs and assets and leveraging strengths in marginalized communities, and the team initiated problem solving (TIPS) model are included. In this strategy, counselors can look at subgroup data by race and then dig deeper to create causal hypotheses using an additional layer of data. A five step process for creating SMART goals for systemic change will be included.
Chapter 10: Change is Hard: Responding to Criticism and Push Back
Working for systemic change will likely result in criticism and push back. As counselors, we often highly value consensus and collaboration but conflict is a necessary part of change. Being prepared for conflict can reduce feelings of anxiety. Common barriers to equity are: resistance to change, systems of oppression, sense of privilege and entitlement, and lack of understanding. Each will be explored with cultural proficiency levels and the courageous conversations about race compass protocol to drive change while maintaining positive relationships with stakeholders.