Blake Wood
Publish Date

The University of Illinois Springfield Alliance for Experiential Problem-Based Learning, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Loyola University Chicago co-hosted a virtual discussion with K-12 student leaders, legislators and stakeholders titled “Equity in Action” on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. The discussion focused on ways to improve learning conditions for students disproportionally affected by exclusionary discipline practices.

The discussion focused on topics, such as social-emotional learning, mental health, trauma-based learning, implicit bias, restorative justice, pandemic-related concerns and student voices.

“The Convening was an opportunity for the disciplinary equity partners, legislators and other stakeholders to hear from the students most critically impacted by classroom practices and to have a forum for addressing their priorities for meaningful change,” said Betsy Goulet, director of the Alliance for Experiential Problem-Based Learning at UIS.

A keynote presentation was delivered by Jason Okonofua, assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who discussed the processes by which racial stereotypes can shape outcomes of teacher-student relationships and scalable means to mitigate those effects to curb the school-to-prison pipeline.

State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala and UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney provided opening remarks. Juliana Mitrius provided an overview of Lurie Children’s Hospital Social Emotional Learning Project and Samantha Kinish discussed the Safe2Help Initiative. Illinois State Representative Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, Student Advisory Council President Eric Veal, Jr. and members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus also took part in the discussion.

The discussion supported ISBE’s goals to (1) support schools to address social and emotional needs of students, educators, and staff impacted by COVID-19 by providing them with high-quality professional development and (2) support district implementation of policy and guidance to promote students’ safety and well-being, including nondiscrimination and inclusion.