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Lawyers Fighting for Education Justice in 2021


By Andrew Hairston n March 2021, Texas Appleseed published Education Transformed: The K-12 Experience in Texas During the Coronavirus Pandemic (“Education Transformed”), a comprehensive report encapsulating research on how the coronavirus pandemic has detrimentally impacted young Texans, including economic deprivation, housing insecurity and education inequity. Through the research process for this report, the Texas Appleseed Education Justice Project team better understood just how detrimental the coronavirus pandemic has been on children across Texas. Every crisis faced by adults during this unparalleled moment has landed upon children with more force. In the first year of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, children worked essential jobs to support their families, faced exclusionary discipline in schools, and, alongside their parents, navigated referrals to truancy courts.1 They waded through these difficulties as the nation mourned over 550,000 lives lost to COVID-19. Young people were expected to maintain some sense

of normalcy throughout this once-in-a-century experience. As we recognize that we won’t fully grasp the breadth of this crisis for years to come, we already see that the same zero-tolerance approach for children and their behavior stands to continue. Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the continuation of school policing and penalties for school absences demonstrate this argument most effectively. Both institutional practices represent the insidious mass criminalization of young people—a form of oppression that not even a global health crisis slowed.2 On the issue of school policing, Education Transformed provides both anecdotal and empirical evidence that nothing changed over the past twelve months. School districts maintained their internal school police departments and the budget line items that accompany them, even as the country witnessed incredible momentum around divestment from school policing in the summer of 2020.3 On a related note, school districts around Houston, like Pasadena ISD, have already administered several hundred formal disciplinary actions during this academic year.4

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RYAN NEYLAND 832.804.9423

May/June 2021