Cultivating community leadership and advocacy based on community-defined solutions
The South King County Discipline Coalition (SKCDC) was awarded $180,000 through the new Education Equity Fund at College Spark. The Fund was launched in 2020 and supports work designed to dismantle barriers to equity in education for students in high school and at community and technical colleges.
“This grant will help us provide honorariums to the community for their expertise in cultivating connections through empowering one another and building relationships within the school districts of South King County,” said Mahogany Tucker, Executive Director for the Coalition. “Our goal is to transform the education institution in our region into spaces that share power with communities that currently make up the school to prison pipeline due to exclusionary, racist practices, policies and culture.”
The SKCDC’s mission is to end disproportionate discipline of students of color and interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline through anti-racist organizing, leadership development, and advocacy strategies that center parents and youth directly affected. The Coalition engages in district-level efforts to demand a shift away from punitive approaches to student behavior and towards restorative approaches designed to promote healthy, accountable relationships between schools, families, and the broader community.
During the COVID-19 school closures of the 2020-2021 school year, SCKDC hosted over 40 community events for 1,000 participants, including listening sessions with several South King County school districts. District staff and leadership, including Superintendents, participated in listening sessions divided into two meetings. In the first, district staff committed to listening and not speaking as parents and students shared their experiences with racism in education and insight on district needs and solutions. The districts were provided with session recordings and notes to prepare for the second session, in which staff shared back to the community what they heard from them and discussed district plans for addressing concerns raised by the Coalition.
Guiding questions for both sessions included:
- What have been missed opportunities for dismantling racism in your district?
- What have been missed opportunities for centering BIPOC families in decision making?
- Do you feel welcomed at your school? If so, what aspects made you feel welcomed? If not, what factors contributed?
- How can the district meaningfully gather and report feedback that builds trusting and productive relationships?
- What are policy or procedural practices or changes that could better address issues raised?
Learning is central to the work of the SKCDC. Events are designed to engage both parent Coalition members and school district staff and leadership in a learning agenda framed by the anti-racist organizing principles of the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. These principles include:
- Analyzing institutional power
- Developing anti-racist leadership
- Shifting the practices of institutional gatekeepers
- Identifying and analyzing manifestations of institutional racism
- Learning from history
- Creating accountable institutions
- Building stable and effective community networks
While College Spark has not typically offered general operating support, our current desire to support community-centered work requires working with organizations that have strengths including strong community ties, organizing expertise, credibility in anti-racist activism, and the ability to bridge the divide between districts and the communities they serve.
General operating support will make it possible for SKCDC to accomplish some of its short-term organizational goals and to grow in the future. The SKCDC has demonstrated its strength at organizing and empowering communities of color to effect change while navigating relationships with the districts and agencies that can find that growing empowerment to be challenging. College Spark is proud to launch the Education Equity Fund with this grant to grow and stabilize our region’s capacity to cultivate community leadership and advocacy based on community-defined solutions.