Stories from the field: KWST

There’s a long-standing overrepresentation of students of color and low-income students in special education programs. KWST Behavioral Development Group is addressing this with a cohort of parent advocates and through curated community discussions that build efficacy among parents, helping them become stronger advocates for their children and support school success.

KWST staff are experienced, culturally responsive leaders passionate about impacting these issues right here and right now. It’s not just something they read about or study, it’s what they have experienced personally and professionally – operating day-in and day-out with an inspiring sense of urgency.

Awarded a grant from MN Comeback last year and, at 173 parents trained (surpassing their goal of 100), learn more about KWST through the lens of Johari Moten – a parent advocate – as the new organization mobilizes two-dozen parents around an advocacy campaign aimed at having students of color be seen as humans rather than be tasked with wearing stereotypical labels that keep them out of classrooms….

Thanks for reading,
Nyemadi Dunbar, MN Comeback

ND: What would you like people in Minnesota to know about KWST’s work? 

JM: This problem goes unnoticed and unaddressed, so the first thing people should know is the dismal trajectory for students of color when they are given the emotional and behavioral disorder label (commonly known as “EBD”). It has been proven to be the fast-track for the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

It’s not just a Minnesota problem it’s is a national one, and the trends and roots trace back to the pre-Civil Rights era. People must understand that explicit bias and its parent – overt racism – as well as it’s cousin – implicit bias – amplifies these issues and make it very difficult to dismantle the problem at its core. We have work to do Minnesota.

ND: How has your connection to KWST affected you?

JM: The training I received from KWST has personally helped my parenting skills – and my co-parent’s skills – immensely. We both have a better understanding of our parental rights and responsibilities and are in a much better position to advocate for our son and other children in our community.

ND: What’s changing?

JM: The education we received has not only empowered us with information, but it has equipped us with tools and specific strategies to use in communicating and advocating in the school and beyond. We have been able to share this information and teach others to be educated, empowered and equipped to impact their own children and others in the community. More people in our community can benefit from this work.

ND: What’s the next step? Where do we go from here?

JM: The next steps are to become even more familiar with effective ways to fight against all educational injustices and inequities. More kids who look like my son should be in classrooms learning from great teachers and relevant curriculum. To demand equity, and educational excellence now, not five or 10 years from now. I will stay in close communication with this organization and continue assisting with the movement!

Want more? Take a deeper peek at the at the journey to KWST in this MinnPost article.

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