Shaping America’s Education Priorities:
Working Towards Safer Schools

Join us for a national town hall discussion as we focus on school violence and the importance of recognizing it as a national health crisis. The goal of this session is to identify problem areas nationwide and work towards a solution for eliminating threats to school safety.

The town hall will begin with a look at statistics relevant to school violence by state. Our panelists will then discuss what they identify as the root cause of the problem, as well as practical and policy recommendations that should be implemented in our efforts to prevent violence in America’s schools.

There have been 16 school shootings in the U.S. since August 1. The latest school shooting took place at a Chicago high school on Oct. 12, where a student and security guard were shot and injured when someone open fired from the street toward the school doors during dismissal. Since 2018, there have been 82 school shootings.

School safety should be recognized as an ongoing concern that deserves more systematic and sustained attention, and reliance on evidence-based practices rather than sporadic, crisis-driven responses to high-profile incidents (Cornell & Mayer).

We look forward to hearing from our panelists, who bring a wide variety of experiences to this discussion topic. Together, our intent is to move the nation towards making school safety a top priority.

Virtual Panel Discussion
Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021
6:30 – 8:00 pm CST

Meet the Moderator, Speakers and Panelists

Moderator: Dr. Sonya Whitaker

Dr. Sonya Whitaker, the National Director for Educational Policy for PUSH Excel, will be the moderator of our upcoming virtual town hall discussion. Dr. Whitaker is a national speaker and highly regarded educator who started as a classroom teacher and has since served as Superintendent of Schools in two different school districts in Illinois. She also has served as Deputy Superintendent of Schools and as a central office administrator for the largest elementary school district in the state.

Dr. Whitaker is the founder of Whitaker Educational Consulting, Inc., the author of Is There Anybody That Can Teach Me How to Read?, and the host of the national radio show and podcast: What’s Really Going On??, a spotlight on solutions for improving student achievement in America’s schools.

Speaker: Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Rev. Jackson is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures and the Founder and President of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which focuses on civil rights work through economic parity, equal educational opportunities, and international social justice and peace.

Over the past 40 years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Clinton. A hallmark of Rev. Jackson’s work has been his commitment to youth. He has visited thousands of high schools, colleges, universities and correctional facilities encouraging excellence and inspiring hope in  young people.

Speaker: Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Dr. Malveaux is the President of PUSH Excel. She has long been recognized for her progressive and insightful observations. Dr. Malveaux’s popular writing has appeared in USA Today, Black Issues in Higher Education, Ms. Magazine, Essence Magazine, and the Progressive. . Dr. Malveaux has been a contributor to academic life since receiving her Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1980. During her time as the 15th President of Bennett College for Women, Dr. Malveaux was the architect of exciting and innovative transformation at America’s oldest historically black college for women. She is the President and owner of Economic Education, a 501 c-3 non-profit headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Speaker: Dr. Michael Allen

Dr. Michael Allen has been the recipient of the National Association of University Women’s Educator of the Year Award (2014), the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service (2017), Valparaiso University’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award (2019) and most recently, he was named 2020 Elementary Principal of the Year. He has spent 4 years as an assistant principal in East Chicago, Indiana and Waukegan, Illinois. In addition, he has 10 years of experience serving as principal at various schools in Chicago, Harvey, Country Club Hills, and Evanston, Illinois.

Over the course of his career, he has emerged as one of the most respected school leaders in the Chicagoland area. He has taught over 250 current practicing school and district leaders how to effectively implement comprehensive mindfulness practices in their schools to strengthen their student-centered learning environments. In addition, he has served as a mentor, coach and skilled researcher to various leaders and organizations specializing in emotional intelligence, equity, human resources, school improvement and climate and culture. Dr. Allen recognized the huge need for reading materials that depict young Black boys in a manner that is authentic and relatable as well as life affirming. To that end, he and his brother co-authored the best-selling children’s book, Brotherly Love. Michael tirelessly advocates to end policies that hold students of color down, so it was not surprising that he was the only school leader that contributed to the Inclusive Education Act that Gov. Pritzker (March 2021) signed into law mandating the teaching of pre-enslavement Black history to all students in Illinois. He has been an instrumental leader in various think tanks associated with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the Chicago Urban League’s IMPACT Leadership Development Program through the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, as well as Harvard University’s National Institute of Urban School Leaders. He currently serves as an Executive Leadership Coach.

Speaker: Kevin Jenkins

Kevin Jenkins serves as the school Safety & Security Manager for East Aurora School District 131.

District 131 is the 13th largest school district in Illinois, encompassing 24 buildings and approximately 14,000 students and 2,000 staff.

Mr. Jenkins coordinates the planning and implementation of best practices in building security for the district, including developing drills, training, security materials and procedures. Mr. Jenkins also serves as the liaison between the district and law enforcement, the fire department, and the regional office of education on matters related to school safety and security.

Previous to this role, Mr. Jenkins worked for the Aurora Police Department for 31 years in many capacities, including community-oriented policing (C.O.P.), D.A.R.E instructor, Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) instructor, gang intervention unit, school resource officer, juvenile investigator, crisis negotiator, background investigator, and union president.

Mr. Jenkins attended Tennessee State University in Electrical Engineering and Aurora University for Criminal Justice Management.

Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Norrell

Dr. Jennifer Norrell, superintendent of East Aurora School District 131, is the first female superintendent in IL’s oldest school district and first African American female superintendent in Kane County. Leader of one of the largest IL school districts, she oversees a $200M annual budget and 2000 employees.

In over 25 years, Dr. Norrell has served in many roles, including teacher, school leader and district leader for high school and pre-k through 12th grade unit districts. She has also served as district liaison for Illinois, overseeing underperforming districts across the state through a partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education and American Institutes for Research. Dr. Norrell has also served many years as university faculty for Saint Xavier and Governor’s State Universities.

The daughter of a life-long educator, she believes in preparing the next generation. She has supported improvement efforts and mentored educators for districts, including Dallas ISD, Indianapolis and Atlanta Public Schools, and school principals in Chicago Public Schools.

Dr. Norrell serves to better lives in underserved communities by closing the opportunity gaps through volunteerism in many civic and professional organizations, as well as service organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and The Links, Incorporated.

Speaker: Weihua Li

Weihua Li is a data reporter at The Marshall Project. She uses data analysis and visualization to tell stories about the criminal justice system, including a year-long investigation into the injuries caused by police dog bites that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Below is a summary of her work:

“In a Marshall Project analysis of six large police departments that provided detailed demographic information on use-of-force incidents, we found nearly 4,000 youngsters 17 and under experienced police violence from 2015 through 2020. Almost 800 of the children and teens — roughly a fifth of the total — were Black girls. White girls were involved in about 120 cases, representing only 3% of use-of-force incidents involving minors.

As Black communities are painfully aware, and researchers have detailed, Black boys bear the brunt of police violence against minors. That was true in our data, too. More than 2,200 Black boys were involved in use-of-force incidents in the six cities we examined. But Black girls also accounted for a significant share of the cases. In New Orleans, every girl in use-of-force data was Black; two-thirds of the girls who live in the city are Black. The story was similar in Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Oregon, where girls who experienced force by police were disproportionately and often overwhelmingly Black.

Reporters at The Marshall Project examined dozens of individual cases in which police officers used force on Black girls. Many of the incidents started small — an allegation of a teenager throwing candy at a store clerk, a teen who skipped school because she was feeling stressed out, a group of girls swimming at a condo complex’s pool. These situations escalated when a girl talked back to an officer or did not immediately follow instructions. In some cases, police body-slammed teens to the ground, punched them, used Tasers or pointed guns at girls. None of these teenagers were armed.”

About Shaping America’s Education Priorities Series

We need an education agenda that makes equity a priority for schools and organizations serving our country’s most vulnerable children and their families. The ultimate goal of this series of events is to bring policy makers and members of the education community together to discuss shaping our educational agenda and pushing it to the front of public policy at local, state, and federal levels.