Kia Levey Burden has an important story to tell about fighting for her son’s needs at school. Professionally, Kia has spent her career advocating for children and families facing barriers created by institutional bias and racism. She is a professor of Social Work at Southern Connecticut State University, works with the Center for Children’s Advocacy, is an Equity Fellow at the Graustein Memorial Fund and is President of Launch Consulting. None of her degrees or extensive work experience fully prepared her to deal with the patterns of unjust, racially biased treatment and suspensions of her young black son, Seth.

In the Hamden, CT district where Seth attended school, suspension and arrest rates, especially of students of color are very high. At the middle school level, 37.3% percent of black students were suspended last year, compared to 20.1% Latinx students and 8% of white students. Additionally, 29% of students with disabilities were suspended, often for behaviors directly related to their learning disabilities, an act which is against the law. Of additional concern is the use of police in schools to “de-escalate” behaviors, which has resulted in 52% of black students being arrested compared to 19.4% of white students. Hamden is not unique in these trends, but it is on the higher end of districts in CT.

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