GAITHERSBURG, MD — Former Superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, and current President of equity and education consulting firm Joseph and Associates, Dr. Shawn Joseph, is applauding BET’s Disrupt & Dismantle for raising awareness of a massive crisis that continues to unfold in Nashville, TN: the city’s devastating school-to-prison pipeline.
The contentious issue was explored during the March 3, 2021 broadcast of Disrupt & Dismantle, which is a groundbreaking new series hosted by iconic journalist Soledad O’Brien, and airs each Wednesday at 11:00pm EST/10:00PM CST.
“We have seen decades of disinvestments in communities, and if it weren’t for some grassroots organizations — oftentimes, funded on a shoestring — I think people would be struggling even more,” commented Ms. O’Brien in conversation with celebrated author and media personality Bevy Smith. “[People in the community] fully understand that crime is correlated to dropping out of school. If you’re suspended from school or if you’re expelled from school, what are you going to do? Those things are not unrelated.”
“For several years I have been advocating that in order to attack student suspension rates — which as Ms. O’Brien very astutely observes is a key driver of the school-to-prison pipeline — we must bring the community around the table and launch a potent, focused, fully-resourced, and completely supported strategic attack,” commented Dr. Shawn Joseph, the Principal of education and equity consulting firm Joseph and Associates, and who previously served as the Superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools. “Nashville has committed coalitions of non-profit organizations like NOAH and the non-profits highlighted in the show. The problem with institutional racism is that there are keepers of the status quo who sit in city and state government, on school boards, and lead business entities who benefit from the continued oppression and segregation of communities. Those non-profit organizations and marginalized communities must continue to lift their voices to demand policy change, adequate resources, and ambitious leadership for equity. What people need to grasp is that everything connects. If kids are not attending school, then naturally they are going to have an antagonistic and hostile attitude towards school and other resources in the community, including authority figures. By recklessly suspending these kids without any regard to the root causes — poverty, lack of nutrition, mental health challenges, trauma in the home, and other core factors — we only exacerbate the problem. That means we are responsible for what is going on, not the kids. But they are the ones who pay the price — and sometimes with their very lives — for the indifference, the competence, and the implicit and explicit racism of decision-makers.”
Continued Dr. Joseph, who recently co-presented a session entitled Nobody Knows My Name: Making Visible All Members of School Communities at the New York School Public Relations Association (NYSPRA) Speaker Series. “We must not delude ourselves into thinking that we can solve this problem by being reactionary and short-sighted. We need to look at the root causes and eliminate the obstacles that prevent kids from being and doing their best. I whole-heartedly applaud Ms. O’Brien and Ms. Smith for raising this vital issue on Disrupt & Dismantle, and strongly urge everyone to watch the episode and share it with their peers. We can and must end the school-to-prison pipeline in Nashville and everywhere else across the country.”
Dr. Shawn Joseph is the Principal of acclaimed education and equity consulting firm Joseph and Associates. His contributions to the education sector have earned him numerous awards and accolades, including the Met-Life Middle School Principal of the Year for the State of Maryland, the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Dissertation Award in the area of Educational Leadership, and the Ambassador Andrew Young Leadership Award.
In 2020, Dr. Joseph was selected as the Person of the Year by Nashville’s Tribune newspaper, and in the same year he was honored with the Greater Nashville Association of Black School Educator’s Trailblazer Award.
Dr. Joseph also served on the Board of Learning Forward, an international organization focused on ensuring equity and excellence in teaching and learning through building the capacity of leaders to establish and sustain highly effective professional learning. His other board of trustee appointments includes the Nashville-based grassroots non-profit advocacy group Equity Alliance, whose mission is to advocate for African Americans and other communities of color to have a fair and just opportunity at realizing the American dream. This is achieved by equipping citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to take action on issues affecting their daily lives.