"[T]he most financially vulnerable population in America is the group of individuals that live at the intersection of disability, race and ethnicity. The simultaneous experiences of discrimination and lack of access to economic opportunity, due to racism and ableism*, deserves urgent attention by the financial community, government, faith-based communities, community development organizations and media as leaders begin to design and implement the post-COVID-19 path to economic recovery. As President George H. W. Bush stated in his remarks 30 years ago at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, “Together, we must remove the physical barriers we have created and the social barriers that we have accepted. For ours will never be a truly prosperous nation until all within it prosper.”"
We can and must to better for our kids - now and into the future. The financial impacts of systemic inequalities are clear, so we need to embrace new ideas such as:
- The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). For the first time in the 40 years since the law was passed, the rule offers new clarity and coverage of LMI individuals with disabilities.
- The shift to telecommuting offers new opportunities for businesses of all sizes and sectors to recruit job seekers with disabilities. Many individuals with disabilities have long awaited the workplace flexibility that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced on many workplaces. With the removal of barriers to working at home, individuals with disabilities who face transportation, assistive technology and other obstacles that may be more easily addressed in a home office, are better positioned to secure employment that matches their experience, talents and abilities. Reaching this talent pool requires that employers consider new partnerships with disability-related organizations, the public workforce development system, including vocational rehabilitation (VR) and disability employment service providers at the local and state level.
- The use of ABLE accounts - an underutilized savings vehicle (available since 2015) that allows an eligible individual with a disability to save for qualified disability expenses while maintaining eligibility for critically needed public benefits, such as Medicaid and/or Supplemental Security Income (a Social Security Disability benefit for eligible individuals with limited income and assets).
*Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. It rests on the assumption that people with disabilities require ‘fixing.” Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as ‘less than,’ and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions and generalizations of people with disabilities. https://www.accessliving.org/newsroom/blog/ableism-101/
Statistics are everywhere showing that we are disproportionately criminalizing black, brown and disabled kids, excluding them from school via suspensions and expulsions, engaging police, and sentencing them to juvenile justice facilities.
In fact, such dismaying statistics have been consistent for decades. Our practices and acts of violence against black, brown and disabled kids and adults have become so common, that we sometimes fail to become activated by events that are consistent with & are the basis of the disheartening and reprehensible statistics.
Sometimes, however, the ugly head of racism roars louder, such as when something so terrible and unfathomable happens in society that it draws everyone's attention and they demand action through protests and other overt actions, such as the recent incidents of police brutality and murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the Spring of 2020 during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This also happened in San Mateo County in 2018 when Chinedu Okobi, a black man with a mental health diagnosis, was murdered in Millbrae by San Mateo Sheriff's Deputies using tasers when he caught their attention by jay walking. In this instance, the public roar was more localized. There were no charges brought, and justice remains to be served.
Speaking up for justice is absolutely imperative, and this has been (and is currently being) done. Calls for police oversight and divestment have been made. Resolutions are circulating, funding is being cut in some cities, charges have been brought and heightened for the officers involved in Mr. Floyd's murder.
What can we do to make deep-seated and lasting systemic change?
I think that we can do a great many things.
The public's "will for change" hopefully translates into "political will for change."
I believe, as with most issues, we must start by looking at how we are treating our KIDS, what we are allowing - and if we're unaware of what's happening in our schools on these matters, why is that so? How are we perpetuating longstanding and systemic racism and marginalization?
"U.S. Department of Education data shows that in most states black, Latino and special-needs (disabled) students get referred to police and courts disproportionately. The volume of referrals from schools is fueling arguments that zero tolerance policies and school policing are creating a “school-to-prison pipeline” by criminalizing behavior better dealt with outside courts. The Center for Public Integrity ranked states by their rate of referral for every 1,000 students." See below and https://publicintegrity.org/education/virginia-tops-nation-in-sending-students-to-cops-courts-where-does-your-state-rank/
One of my priorities in running for the San Mateo County Board of Education is to "disrupt the school to prison pipeline and the policies underlying this trend." It is not acceptable to me that 100% of the Court School students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, a majority are black and brown students, and approximately 75% or more are students with disabilities.
I believe that it is not until we look closely at our practices and policies for kids and pay attention to clear biases (not just implicit biases, but explicit biases and racism) and consider that we are perpetuating longstanding systemic racism and marginalization through such practices and policies, that we will be able to work toward justice.
We also need to make sure that our students are having these discussions and are prepared to continue holding up accountability for equality and justice into the future. Promoting student discussion of these issues by infusing civics education and a broader base of history in our schools' curriculums is essential.
As with all things, we have to address imperative issues in the present moment (for kids, adolescents & adults) as best we can, but the more we can work toward addressing the root causes and alleviating them whenever possible, the better our outcomes are likely to be going forward.
We can make strides toward justice and equality if we remain activated and if we continue taking steps toward real and lasting change.
We can and must do this.
Here are some thoughts on how, in this unprecedented time, we might think about education in a new way that will lead to more equity and better outcomes...
"Trust educators and children. Give them professional respect, creative freedom and autonomy, including the ability to experiment, take manageable risks and fail in the pursuit of success."
"In short, if we learn anything at all from this pandemic, we should clearly recognize that we need our teachers more than ever before. It’s imperative that schools focus on a balanced approach to education, one that embraces physical, emotional, cognitive and social growth. We have an enormous amount of work to do, but our children deserve nothing less."
"Michael Hynes is the superintendent of schools in the Port Washington school district on Long Island in New York. He is one of the most creative, innovative, and unconventional thinkers in education today. His new book was just published, offering advice to school leaders and, frankly, to everyone, about what is most important in life."
The impacts of defunding systems for our youth, whether it be schools or our juvenile justice system, are of serious concern...especially for kids who are already marginalized and have not historically been served well by our systems. #ReThinkBudgetCuts #ConsiderKidsFirst#InequityWasRampantPreCovid #BeAllInForOurKids⚖️💙🎓
“Guzman — who spent six years at the California Youth Authority—said the state juvenile justice system now offers judges an alternative to having youth transferred to the adult system.
Under current state law, youthful offenders can remain in the state’s juvenile lockups until age 25 if a judge finds that they can benefit from the rehabilitative services it offers. Under the governor’s plan, as Guzman reads it, some youth would be sent straight to adult prisons after turning 18.
“We’re throwing them to the wolves in the name of a balanced budget,” Guzman said.”