Fostering a spirit of collaboration.
Loyola's school psychology programs are committed to preparing future school psychologists through a close community of learners. Students in our program learn to collaborate with educators, parents, and community members in order to provide high-quality, effective academic, behavioral, and mental health supports to PK-12 students.
Consistent with the Loyola mission, our students learn to conduct research and engage in evidence-based practices through a social justice lens in order to create equitable school-based experiences for those who have been historically underserved and marginalized. It is through deep collaboration and a commitment to justice that we prepare school psychologists who help to bring about transformative educational experiences.
Statement to Students about Anti-Asian Hate Crime in Atlanta, March 2021
Content warning: The following email discusses recent violence against Asian and Asian American communities, and reading about this may be retraumatizing for those who have been affected by racialized violence.
As a faculty, we are writing to stand in support and solidarity with our Asian and Asian American peers, students, colleagues, family members, and communities. We condemn in the strongest terms the mass shooting that killed six Asian women and two others in Atlanta on March 16th and the deep-seated bigotry, racism, and hate that motivated it. We lift up the known names of the individuals who lost their lives: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Julie Park, Hyeon Jeong Park. They deserve to still be with us. They deserve to have their resilience, strengths, agency, and unique experiences and identities celebrated.
This hate crime, whether or not it is so named by the media, targeted Asian women working in spas/massage parlors and was motivated by misogyny and white supremacy. This horrifying incident comes amidst an exponential increase in anti-Asian rhetoric, xenophobia, and hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic (Wu et al., 2021)—with nearly 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate violence documented since last March (Jeung et al., 2021). And all of this is situated within the horrifying, centuries-long history of white-perpetrated violence, lynching, exploitation, scapegoating, exclusion, internment, race-based immigration bans, invisibilizing, fetishization, model-minoritization, and marginalization of Asians and Asian Americans in the United States (Man, 2020; Mukkamala & Suyemoto, 2018; Ussher et al., 2020). As with all forms of oppression, such violence is not uniform across communities—it is deeply classed, gendered, and shaped by border imperialism and racial capitalism. That means that Asian folks who are poor, working class, women, femme, trans, nonbinary, undocumented, refugees, sex workers, other criminalized workers, and have other marginalized identities are disproportionately harmed by misogynist and white supremacist violence. Further, the experiences and impacts of white supremacist oppression vary across the many cultures, languages, religions, countries of origin, and nationalities that are subsumed under the broad category of “Asian.” The framework of intersectionality allows us to see and understand how our movement for racial justice thus requires an expansive vision of justice, as well as solidarity and coalition building across marginalized groups.
We recognize that this incident, especially within the larger context and history, may be causing immense pain, racial trauma, and anger among our Asian American students, colleagues, and communities, as well as other communities of color. We see you and are in solidarity with you. We will continue fighting alongside you for justice. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need support or resources. You can also always submit a CARE referral on behalf of yourself or a peer if you’re experiencing barriers to your academic success right now.
As we mentioned in an email to all students in October of last year, all oppression is connected (poet Staceyann Chin). We write to center these issues because healing and fighting oppression should be inseparable from the work of school psychology. Schools are often a site for further trauma for Asian children and families, as well as Asian school personnel—but they have the potential to be a space for working toward liberation and justice. As school psychologists, we not only have the opportunity to promote children’s strengths and wellbeing and combat their indoctrination to white supremacy, the model minority myth, and other forms of oppression, we also have a chance to collaborate with the adults surrounding those children to transform their biases and racism and consult at a systems level to dismantle oppressive practices that harm Asian children and families, in their vast diversity. As this social justice work needs to happen on every level (e.g., assumptions/biases, language usage, family partnership, communication style, instruction, referral/tiered systems, intervention, assessment, representation in decision-making, research, policy, training, etc.), we all have a role to play and we must, using our unique skill sets, positionality, and sphere of influence.
As President Rooney’s message yesterday stated, this moment requires action. We call all of us to action. There is no prescribed starting place. Some prompts for reflection that may help you identify where to start:
Have you checked in on your Asian, Desi, and Pacific Islander family, friends, neighbors? What can you do, personally and professionally, to address your own biases and interpersonal racism, including microaggressions? How are you engaging in regular self-reflection and dialogue? How are you reflecting on how white supremacy is enacted in your choices and behaviors? Are you centering the voices of the oppressed in social justice work? What can you do in your cohort/our program to nurture an inclusive and supportive environment? What can you do in the remainder of this school year to work for anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices that support equity and justice for all students? What about next school year? How can you take care of yourself throughout this process in order to be able to sustain your engagement with anti-oppression work? If you need additional ideas, resources, or reading/listening materials, please see the links below at the end of this email.
As a faculty, we are continuing to build on the action plan we shared in October. We are also taking an intentional look at our curriculum to work toward making it anti-racist and aligment with the social justice principles we espouse as a program. Within this effort, we will specifically examine how our curriculum discusses the diverse needs of Asian American children/youth in schools; addresses anti-Asian hate, misogyny, and xenophobia; and integrates and centers the contributions of Asian, Desi, and Pacific Islander practitioners and scholars. We will also work with students to identify ways to improve program climate and ensure the program is a safe, inclusive space for Asian, Desi, and Pacific Islander students. We are always here if you need additional support or have ideas for changes or efforts in our program or the School of Education. Take good care of yourselves and each other.
The School Psychology Faculty
Resources and organizations supporting the victims’ families in Atlanta and other efforts to fight anti- AAPI hate and violence:
A starting place for reading and listening:
The articles cited in the text of the email
Position Statement on Addressing Referrals for Initial Psychoeducational Evaluations for Marginalized Students During and Beyond the Pandemic, February 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the educational experiences of students who were already marginalized within schools before the pandemic—namely, students of color (including those identifying as Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx), English learners and multilingual students, students with disabilities, students from low-income backgrounds, and students who embody more than one of these marginalized identities simultaneously. Black and Indigenous communities have been particularly hard hit by the enormous loss of life associated with the pandemic1 and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have been targeted and adversely affected by an exponential increase anti-Asian hate crimes and xenophobia.2 We have observed the effects on these student populations across numerous educational and psychological indicators: decreased early childhood program enrollment3, decreased access to safe in-person learning,4 unequal access to computers and stable internet,4 decreased attendance,5 fewer or weakened language supports for English learners,6 low academic achievement,4 7 and increased emotional/behavioral distress.8
Seemingly as a result of learning losses and unmet social-emotional needs, there appear to be a growing number of referrals for initial psychoeducational evaluations to determine need for special education among English learners and students of color. Educators may be eager to make marginalized students eligible for special education in order to provide remedial instruction and “extra support,” but existing inequities that have been compounded by the pandemic necessitate thoughtful consideration of these referrals. Educators, school psychologists, graduate students, and faculty must identify the social justice and ethical issues inherent in these referrals and act in a way that promotes equity. To support graduate students and practitioners in being agents for change in schools now and post- pandemic, leaders in education and school psychology present below our guidance on addressing these referrals for initial psychoeducational evaluations, based on our legal obligations and ethical principles.
1. Thoroughly examine exclusionary criteria prior to accepting a referral.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act requires that only children identified as having a disability receive special education and related services. 9 The law states that a child cannot qualify as having a disability if the determinant factor for their educational needs is: lack of appropriate instruction in reading, lack of instruction in math, or limited English proficiency. That is, missing school, receiving inadequate instruction, or experiencing academic difficulties related to typical dual language development do not constitute a disability. These exclusionary criteria must be explicitly assessed with the referral team before any referral is accepted. This is not common practice,10 but should be—especially now. Evaluating exclusionary criteria necessitates collaborating with families to gather information about their experiences during the pandemic and reviewing student data. If the request for evaluation has come from a parent/caretaker who is seeking additional support for their child, it is incumbent on the school psychologist and other members of the multidisciplinary team to explain the process, parental rights, what special education entails, and what other general education supports are available, if any. Families should be supported in advocating for the best interests of their child.
As eligibility determinations in many categories are subjective11 and most students who are tested are found eligible,12 deciding whether to accept or decline a referral is a critical threshold. Guiding Principle I.3 of the NASP Ethical Principles is Fairness, Equity, and Justice,13 and this principle requires that we act with beneficence, or responsible caring, to promote fairness and social justice and create school systems that equitably serve all students. Special education is not designed to be “supplementary support” for all students and will not be able to ameliorate the academic disparities amplified by the pandemic. We know that children without disabilities who are incorrectly identified as having disabilities are unlikely to benefit from special education and are likely to face lowered expectations for their achievement, which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.10 14 This means these students may fall further behind. Black and Latinx children particularly will be statistically more likely to receive those inappropriate supports in segregated settings, away from their peers.15 16 Black and Latinx children in special education are also more likely to experience exclusionary discipline and be pushed out of schools and into juvenile justice systems.17 18 Further, many to most children remain in special education over the course of their academic career,19 which diminishes their likelihood of obtaining a high school diploma or attending post-secondary education.19 20
2. Be cautious about accepting referrals for specific learning disability concerns during and in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic for marginalized students without a history of attempted/documented intervention.
When reviewing student data to evaluate exclusionary criteria for a referral concern about a potential learning disability, if data indicate that the child has missed a substantial amount of in-person or remote instruction1 between March 2020 and the present or the child is currently designated as an English learner and has received remote instruction exclusively or nearly exclusively between March 2020 and the present—the referral should likely be declined, unless there is considerable and compelling evidence to suggest concerns about a disability or history of increasing intervention prior to the pandemic. As English learners in particular are likely to receive delayed identification in other disability categories,21 22 multidisciplinary teams should not delay consideration of referrals for other concerns.
3. Reflect on and consider your positionality and power prior to accepting a referral.
In particular, those of us who identify as White need to fully consider our own positionality and power in making consequential decisions about the lives of students’ and families’ of color. This power should never be leveraged paternalistically to make decisions about the best interests of a child on behalf of the rest of a multidisciplinary team or in place of a child’s parent (e.g., pressuring a parent to write a request for an initial evaluation). White educators’ and school psychologists’ decisions that all that can be offered in the way of extra support for struggling students is a referral for special education means very likely being complicit with putting more BIPOC and multilingual children who do not need special education into that pipeline. This may expose minoritized and marginalized students to potential risks and life-long consequences. We must acknowledge the gravity of these decisions and our outsized power in making them. We know about the experiences and outcomes of misidentified, Black and Latinx, and multilingual children in special education. Special education is not “the only way” to provide services for struggling BIPOC and multilingual students—that is a fiction deeply steeped in white supremacist ideology. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, when you know better, do better. We need to do better by our marginalized students.
4. Provide intervention in general education and advocate for advances in multi-tiered systems of support.
If a referral is declined during or in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, evidence-based interventions should be implemented in the general education setting to address the child’s needs. Multidisciplinary teams should also consult with the child and family to ask what they need to get back on track. Families may be able to illuminate needs that are unknown to school staff or provide insights about potential ways to modify instruction or intervention to be more effective during this unprecedented period. The necessity of an evaluation may be reconsidered if needed, after sufficient time and lack of response to increasingly intensive supports in general education.
A continuum of programming and interventions available to students in general education is essential for equitably responding to the needs of all students—including those whom educators are referring for special education evaluation as a means of additional support. If such a continuum is not available in your schools, the pandemic offers an opportunity to act on Guiding Principle IV.1 of the NASP Ethical Principles, Promoting Healthy School, Family, and Community Environments, through systems change.13 Rather than continuing to accept a growing number of initial evaluations for children of color or multilingual children, use your systems-level consultation skills to advocate (in the near- or long-term) for initiating or strengthening multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). Now is the time to expand the range of supports offered within general education, including culturally and linguistically responsive interventions for multilingual children, and create innovative, prevention-based approaches to supporting children holistically, such as partnering with neighborhood- or community-based organizations to provide food security, internet access, extracurricular learning opportunities, etc. Recently published NASP Communiqué articles23 24 offer detailed, practical guidance for implementing equity-focused and culturally and linguistically responsive MTSS, including how educators can examine existing core curricula and practices, use data to support decision making, work smarter, and improve approaches to Tier 2 and Tier 3. Schools may also consider developing a pandemic taskforce or consultation/assessment team, whose charge could include conducting universal screening and implementing supports within MTSS proactively. We know learning (and likewise academic struggles) do not happen in a vacuum; students’ ecologies matter to development and performance, including both instructional contexts and those beyond the school doors. We can and need to dream beyond existing binary structures and push for offering a fuller continuum of resources to support students of color and English learners in general education. Our leverage to advocate for such changes to administrators and policymakers is embodied in the exclusionary criteria of IDEA and our ethical principles as educators and school psychologists.
5. Focus on strengths-based and culturally and linguistically responsive assessment practices.
After reflecting on these considerations and advocating for general education supports and systems change, if the multidisciplinary team still wants to proceed with a referral, utilize your knowledge and skills in best practices for strengths-based and equitable assessment of students of color and multilingual students. Consider also consulting a recently published article on tele-assessment considerations during the pandemic.25
This statement was authored by Kelly L. Edyburn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School Psychology, School of Education, Loyola University Chicago. I appreciate the thoughtful reviews and insightful feedback of Dr. Mike Bahr (University of Missouri—St. Louis), Dr. Agustina Bertone (Nathanson Family Resilience Center, University of California, Los Angeles), Dr. Jennifer Cooper (Yeshiva University), Dr. Erin Dowdy (University of California, Santa Barbara), Dr. Bryn Harris (University of Colorado Denver), Dr. Ken Fujimoto (Loyola University Chicago), Mayra Gaona (Loyola University Chicago), Dr. Kate Phillippo (Loyola University Chicago), and Dr. Sruthi Swami (California State University, Fresno) on previous drafts of this statement; their comments improved the clarity of the statement and the nuance of these recommendations.
Statement to Students about Grand Jury Decision in Breonna Taylor Case, October 2020
Content warning: The following email discusses recent violence against Black and African American communities, and reading about this may be retraumatizing for those who have been affected by racialized violence.
As a faculty, we are writing to create space to process the unfolding and ongoing racial injustices that continue to cause immense pain and racialized trauma to our Black students, peers, colleagues, friends, family members, and communities, as well as other communities of color. We write to acknowledge these events, affirm our support for and solidarity with our Black students and colleagues, highlight how these events connect to our work as school psychologists, outline our action steps as a faculty, and call you to act, as well.
Our Current Context
It is impossible to capture the full scope of the racial injustices that have transpired this year, let alone in the entire history of this country. We are, undoubtedly, a nation built on colonization, slavery, and deeply entrenched white supremacy and systemic racism; the catalogue of oppression of Black people, immigrants, and people of color in the U.S. fills entire tomes. And yet, it is still critically important to acknowledge recent events that have continued to cause suffering to Black and Brown communities, while simultaneously raising consciousness in many communities and re-centering the struggle for racial justice. In addition to COVID-19, which is disproportionately affecting and killing Black people, this summer we witnessed the police continue to murder Black people without consequence—Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others. Most recently, we heard the heartbreaking and infuriating grand jury decision in Breonna Taylor’s case and the Kentucky Attorney General’s efforts to obfuscate the facts of the case for jurors and suppress accountability for the police. The lack of justice in this case is incredibly painful, and even if the officers had been charged with her murder, that small bit of justice would not have undone the oppressive systems and circumstances that allowed white police officers to murder Breonna in her sleep in the first place. She deserves to be alive today. So many other Black people who have been murdered by police officers deserve to be alive. Even more recently, we learned of Jonathan Price’s murder by a police officer in Texas, and the Trump administration’s policy memos and Executive Order aimed at eliminating federal trainings involving critical race theory and white privilege, in an effort to deny the existence of the white supremacy and systemic racism that this country continues to grapple with.
We want to bring up these issues in recognition that our Black and African American peers, students, and colleagues are potentially experiencing ongoing racial trauma right now, on top of all the other stressors we’ve been facing collectively. We see all of you and honor whatever way you are coping right now. As a faculty, we are committed to supporting and standing in solidarity with you, making sure this program is a safe space for you, and fighting with you for justice, in our program and in our world. We are here if you need additional resources or support. You can also always submit a CARE referral on behalf of yourself or a peer if you’re experiencing barriers to your academic success right now.
How This Context Relates to School Psychology
Some of you may be wondering what these recent events have to do with school psychology. Maybe you agree that there are inequities in education and mental health and agree that it is within our domain to fix these problems—but you’re not really sure how that relates to police violence and Breonna Taylor’s case, for example. These events are related to school psychology because all oppression is connected (poet Staceyann Chin). All oppression is connected, which is why we need an intersectional lens. The forces that have segregated Black families into redlined communities; fostered the dehumanization of Black children among white teachers; enabled the disproportionate representation of Black students in certain disability categories in special education; contributed to doctors perceiving Black people as experiencing less pain than other people; blocked Black families and communities from amassing intergenerational wealth; suspended and expelled Black children at higher rates than other children; incarcerated Black children and adults at higher rates and for longer sentences for less serious crimes than white people and people of other racial backgrounds; allowed police to engage in hyper surveillance of and use of unchecked violence on Black communities and other communities of color; failed to recognize and help realize the brilliant potential of all Black children—these are all the same forces. These are all the overlapping effects of and manifestations of white supremacy, systemic racism, and other forms of systemic oppression.
White supremacy and toxic whiteness start infecting children and affecting their lives and trajectories from the moment they enter this world. Black girls represent 20% of preschool enrollment, but 54% of female preschool suspensions (p. 29). Black girls are 3 times as likely as white girls to be corporally punished in school (p. 34). Hold that for a moment. Teachers—mostly white—are disproportionately suspending Black children beginning in preschool. School administrators—mostly white—are more likely to physically hit Black children for punishment in the school setting. Schools represent a potential site of liberation and justice for this very reason. Our work in schools means we’re not only interfacing with children and have the chance to promote their strengths, wellbeing, and agency and combat their indoctrination to white supremacy and other forms of oppression—but we also get to work with other adults to help reshape racist beliefs they might hold and dismantle oppressive practices within school systems. And we need to do this work on every level: from things as "small" as the language we use and manner in which we communicate about certain groups, to things as big as inequitable school funding and the disproportionality of students of color in special education.
Our Action Plan
These forces of oppression require urgent dismantling. This work requires concrete action, and our inaction has real, serious consequences. As a faculty, we:
- Are engaging in professional development related to how we can incorporate theories of racial trauma and healing into our curriculum and training program
- Commit to working with students to establish norms for learning spaces in order to create safe spaces for healing that affirm the value of vulnerability and emotions
- Are going to be facilitating experiential activities related to interpersonal racism and critical self- reflection in classes
- Commit to work with students on ideas brought forward to further everyone's (faculty and students) development in equity literacy and anti-racism
- Are advancing existing research and starting new research projects (co-constructed with students and research teams) to address inequities and racism
- Will be pursuing grants and community partnership opportunities that give us an opportunity to impact systems change in Chicago and give students experience in working as change agents
We also call you to action. What can you do, personally and professionally, to address your own biases and interpersonal racist practices, including microaggressions? Are you engaging in regular self-reflection and dialogue? Are you reflecting on how white supremacy is enacted in your choices and behaviors? Are you centering the voices of the oppressed in social justice work? Further, what can you do in our program to nurture an inclusive and supportive environment? What can you do—this semester in your coursework or fieldwork—to work for anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices that support equity and justice for all students? How can you take care of yourself throughout this process in order to be able to sustain your engagement with anti-oppression work? This work can seem daunting because the scope is so big. What concrete step can you take to move toward justice that is within your realm of control? How will you hold yourself accountable to following through on that? If you’re not sure where to start, check out some resources on the history of anti- Black racism in the U.S. here and/or this tool for anti-racist self-reflection here. We are always here if you need additional support or have ideas for this justice work in our program or the School of Education. Take good care of yourselves and each other.
The School Psychology Faculty