You are here: American University Centers Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success Antiracist School Counseling: A Call to Action

Antiraciast School Counseling Webinar Series Supporting Communities Pre & Post Election

For the 2020 presidential election, school counselors need to be equipped with antiracist tools and strategies to lead difficult topics.
Watch the October 27th Webinar for Free

Antiracist School Counseling: A Call to Action

The Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success is dedicated to partnering with school counselors, counselor educators, college advisors, and any career/college advisors to increase institutional responsibility for improving postsecondary outcomes through the use of counseling, advising, mentoring, and/or coaching. Through its efforts, the Center strives to advance antiracist school counseling and college/career advising practices, pedagogy and policies

School counselors recognize and affirm the wholeness and humanness of students, families, and their communities through their work with students and the systems in which they learn and develop. Yet, many school counselors recognize that schools continue to operate in ways that harm Black and Brown students, thereby calling for a change in the profession to not only create antiracist school settings, but also to eradicate anti-blackness in the school counseling profession.

#SchoolCounselors2020: Supporting Communities Pre & Post Election

In preparation for the 2020 presidential election, school counselors need to be equipped with antiracist tools and strategies to unpack difficult topics and lead challenging conversations. In this presentation the following will be covered:

  1. Preparing your school community for the election season
  2. Addressing post-election results with students, staff, and stakeholders
  3. Empowering school counselors to support healing and civically engaged action steps in a post-election world

Derek Francis
Derek Francis is a passionate school counselor with years of experience focusing on a proactive, equity based and proactive approach. He currently serves as the Manager of Counseling Services for Minneapolis Public Schools. Derek specializes in helping students and staff build trusting cross cultural relationships and has presented at conferences throughout the country including American School Counselors Association, Minnesota School Counselors Association, Texas School Counselors Association and Wisconsin School Counselors Association. . Recently, Derek lead a webinar for over 25,000 counselors and educators on “Proactive School Counseling After a Major Racial Incident.” Some of Derek’s published work includes contributions to Contemporary Case Studies in School Counseling, published blog “This Is Not A Fire Drill – Supporting students after George Floyd” and July/August publication articles for American School Counselors Association and American School Board Journal.. Spending time with his wife and daughter and traveling are Derek’s favorite hobbies. Derek also serves as a professional Development Specialist for Hatching Results

Kara Leva
Dr. Kara Ieva is currently an Associate Professor in the Counseling in Educational Settings program at Rowan University. In addition to her current position in Counselor Education, her educational career spans over 20 years as a former Spanish teacher and professional school counselor. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Secondary Education and Master’s of Education in Secondary Education Curriculum and Administration from Towson University. Additionally, she earned her Master’s of Education in School Counseling from Loyola College in Maryland and her PhD in Counselor Education for the University of Central Florida. Kara’s areas of research interest include promoting equity and wellness in education for children and adolescents of marginalized populations: in the areas of college and career readiness, social/emotional development, and group counseling. She provides professional development to K-12 school counselors, teachers, and administrators on how to embed social/emotional development into curricula and strategies for cultivating an emotionally safe and welcoming mental health and neurodiverse culture in schools. She created and facilitates the New Jersey School and SAC Counselor Online Collective, which started out of necessity during the multiple pandemics, and current today, offered supervision /peer consultation to all the counselors in the state. Kara holds multiple leadership positions for national and state professional counseling organizations. She serves on the editorial review board for Professional School Counselor Journal published by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Dr. Ieva’s scholarship includes multiple peer review articles, book chapters, newsletter and magazine articles, and technical writing/ evaluation reports. Further, she serves as the former PI and current Director of Academic and Student Services for the Rowan University's pre-college access programs that aid first generation and under-resourced college students in post-secondary preparation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Education, Arts, and Mathematics (Aim High; STE2AM). Lastly, she serves as the evaluator on multiple Foundation and National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, and the Co-PI for an NSF Grant, Broadening participation in STEM through Virtual Reality Career Exploration: Introducing Underrepresented Students to High Need STEM Careers. Her grants to date total $1,844,236.

John Nwosu
John Nwosu is a Human Developer and the owner of Think D.I.F. Consulting, Georgia Middle School Counselor, and an ASCA DEI (Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity) Committee Member.

Jennifer Susko
Jennifer Susko is a school counselor with experience leading, collaborating, and advocating for systemic change at multiple levels of society. She is a R.A.M.P. award recipient and passionate about doing anti-bias, anti-racist work to increase equity in schools. She currently works as an elementary school counselor in Metro Atlanta. Jennifer uses Critical Race Theory and Culturally Relevant Teaching to design a school counseling program that is data-driven and pertinent to the population with whom she works. She has created standards-aligned classroom lessons and small group curricula that aim to help Black students and students of color combat harmful stereotypes, protect them from the effects of weathering, and empower them to use their voice and actions to create the change they wish to see. Jennifer believes that the work to end racial injustice has always been embedded in the role of ethical school counselors.

Watch the Recording


An Antiracist Foundation to School Counseling: Students’ Mindsets & Behaviors

School counseling programs across the country utilize a variety of student standards and competencies to assess students’ academic, college and career, and social-emotional learning. But are these standards perpetuating racist outcomes? Are the standards antiracist? This webinar’s participants will examine the level of equity within the guiding principles of their school counseling program and how those principles align with an antiracist stance.

Danielle Duarte 
Danielle Duarte is an education leadership doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a former school counselor, past president of the California Association of School Counselors, and co-author of two school counseling texts. 

Dr. Natalie Edirmanasinghe
Dr. Natalie Edirmanasinghe is a former middle school counselor. She currently serves as an assistant professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.

John Nwosu
John Nwosu is a Human Developer and the owner of Think D.I.F. Consulting, Georgia Middle School Counselor, and an ASCA DEI (Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity) Committee Member.

Watch the Recording


Antiracist School Counseling: A Call to Action Webinar

On July 29, 2020, school counselors and counselor educators discussed a shift in the profession focused on antiracist school counseling practices. Antiracist school counseling reflects the mindset, behaviors and professional practices that address and dismantle racist ideologies, policies, and practices in K-12 schools.

Mandy Savitz-Romer, Ph.D.
Nancy Pforzheimer Aronson Senior Lecturer of Human Development and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education. 
Twitter: @MSavitzRomer

Carla B. Cheatham, M.Ed., NCC, LCPC, GCDF, CSCDA
School Counselor, Bremen High School and Doctoral Student, Governors State University.
Twitter: @cbcheatham

Renae D. Mayes, Ph.D., NCC
Associate Professor in the Counseling Program in the Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies, University of Arizona
Twitter: @DrRDMayes

Stephen Sharp, M.Ed.
K12 School Counseling Coordinator, Hempfield School District and
President, Pennsylvania School Counselors Association
Twitter: @StvSharp

Watch the Recording







Antiracist School Counseling

Interview with Rebecca Atkins

What does an antiracist school counselor do differently?
The key word for an antiracist school counselor is action. Antiracist school counselors aren’t simply trying their best to support all students, they are intentionally countering racist policies, practices, and norms in their building and their district. To do this, there are several key components:

  1. Knowledge and Skills to identify racist policies and practices. As educators, we have often always lived and worked within the education system. From Kindergarten to College to Graduate School to Career, many school counselors have only known one way. It takes learning and practice to see and identify aspects of the system that are harmful.
  2. Reflection and Awareness to see the bias that we, as school counselors, bring into our work. I firmly believe that 99% of school counselors came into this career to help students. It takes work and responsibility to see where we are falling off our goal by introducing our own bias in what we do each day.
  3. Action and Advocacy to speak up and be a part of the change. It can be intimidating to be the squeaky wheel. Counselors are helpful people. We might feel like being an advocate for change is upsetting the system too much. But that is part of the work. It takes practice to do it well and to know how to use your advocacy in the best way possible, no one gets it right all the time, but action is a must.

What advice would you give to a school counselor who’s ready to start implementing antiracism practices? What’s one piece that you feel is universal to all schools?
The first step is to find your team, the people that you can count on to support you and work with you. This may be in your building (hopefully), in your district (likely), or in the community at large (certainly). No distance is too far, my co-author, Alicia Oglesby, and I met on Twitter and still text and talk regularly about issues that come up for us. We can’t do this work alone for two main reasons - that our own biases sometimes cover up areas where work is needed, and collaboration helps us do better and because it’s hard and draining. Finding your co-conspirators helps you to do your best work and to maintain that effort over time.

Once you have your team, the first place to start is with your data. What data you look at might depend on your school. One thing is for certain, your school board, district leaders, principals, and teachers care about the data. Like it or not, data drives education. In our book, Interrupting Racism, we have an agenda that will guide you through data-based problem solving to identify areas where improvements can be made. The hardest part of this conversation is refocusing the problem solving away from fixing the student and toward fixing the system. As counselors, we are often in the very best position to be this advocate in problem-solving meetings. To prepare, look at the data yourself ahead of time and consider a policy audit as a connection point for the data.

Why do you think it is important to be an antiracist school counselor?
I think you want more to my answer than “because it’s in the job description.” I truly believe that it is an ethical mandate for all school counselors to be anti-racist practitioners. Consider why you became a school counselor - write it down and then consider if students of color are impacted differently in that area than white students. For example, you became a school counselor because you want each and every student to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams. Are students of color facing barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential and achieving their dreams? Absolutely. So we need to do differently, and anti-racism is going to be part of the necessary work.

What obstacles or push-back have you experienced in implementing these methods? How did you overcome these?
I’m very fortunate to work in a school district that is very supportive of anti-racist action. The biggest obstacle I have faced is the forward motion of the system. Systems-level change is hard (and slow) and can take a lot of effort for very incremental improvements. I think because educators have been students or educators for most of their lives, it can be hard to see a different way. I know that I have struggled with the idea of “if we don’t do it that way, then how will we do it?”

I don’t know that I have an answer for how I have overcome this obstacle, but the strategy that I typically use is to ask solution-focused questions to help arrive at a new answer. For example, what are schools doing to increase enrollment of students of color in AIG, honors, and AP courses? What’s working well? How can we replicate that elsewhere? Sometimes we get so bogged down in the problem, we forget that there are examples of solutions all around us. Educators are doing great work at every school, in every district, in every state. Let’s find those educators and spread the word.

What have you learned from your antiracist work?
I have learned a great deal about humility. I don’t know all the answers, I definitely mess up constantly, and I definitely could do more and do better. That can be hard for me, the consummate perfectionist, to stomach. But that is the work that we need to do, so I can’t give up even though I stumble consistently. Maybe the takeaway from that is: You can take small steps and small actions, just don’t stop.

Interview with John Nwosu

John NwosuHow would you define antiracism?
Understanding racism
is necessary in order to understand antiracism. The definition that I use most commonly is from David Wellman (1), who defines it as “a system of advantage based on race.” Ibram X. Kendi (2) also defines racism as “a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities."

Antiracism, on the other hand, is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably (The Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre (3)). Kendi goes on to say, "the opposite of racist isn't 'not racist.' It is 'antiracist.' What's the difference? One endorses either the idea of racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of 'not racist.'”

Racism and antiracism exist as invisible and visible systemic structures that govern individual and collective beliefs and behaviors. Like water, they exist in multiple forms; they are paradigms, perceptions, performances, policies, practices, and products. It is impossible to fully understand racism or antiracism without considering the various levels at which they exist. A social system is defined as individuals and the relations between them. Social system analysis helps us break things down into more digestible pieces:

  • The micro-level includes intra and interpersonal interactions
  • The meso-level focuses on the interactions of people in small groups, communities, and within institutions
  • The macro-level focuses on interactions across multiple institutions along with the policies, laws, histories, and ideas that govern social interactions

We must remember that no matter how small, all incidents of bias and racism within a social system accumulate, compound, and persist with time unless intentionally acted upon by an opposing force.

What obstacles or push-back have you experienced in implementing these antiracist methods? How did you overcome these?
As much as possible, work to surround yourself with good people. I’m forever grateful to my wife Chanelle, who has helped me in so many ways on this journey. We make each other better, and now we have a son. My wife, son, parents, family, and community serve as motivation to keep moving forward even when it gets hard. For the most part, I try to be intentional, so I haven’t experienced a lot thus far. Even when I speak from the heart, I try to support lived experience with data and ethics. I believe it’s important to “discern it til you learn it” and “begin with the end in mind.” You must resist the urge to act without spending enough time learning the culture you have to navigate and discerning what does and does not work from other people’s experiences as much as possible.

I spent a significant amount of time reading and taking copious notes during my master’s program and new counselor training. Then my first semester as a school counselor, I often asked questions like “How do we usually do [this] here?” or “What’s the rationale for why this is happening?” or “Could you help me understand what my goal should be for this task?”. I also shared that I was new often to help build relationships and garner support. I’d say things like, “I’m still new, could you help me with [this].” I made sure I asked good questions. Often good questions create more positive regard and attention than great answers. I leaned heavily on teachers and other staff for help and worked to contribute value to others as often as possible.

I built up significant social capital with the people in my building and district. I was asked to serve on committees and to present. I was also asked to work with families throughout the district and do some community organizing by my good friend and school counseling colleague Jennifer Susko. Jennifer is a lot more direct in her style of activism, so we played off each other well. I played to my strengths, which also helped people who were looking for leaders know what I had to offer. This all helped me once I began to be more vocal about the racial injustice I was seeing in and outside of my school. After speaking at school board meetings, I have been called into my principal's office a few times. Each time my principals and supervisors were able to say that even though I made the wrong people upset, they believed my heart was in the right place.

Most recently, I received a letter of direction (which is a big deal). I emailed our superintendent on behalf of concerned school counselors in our district in March 2020 to share our displeasure with food distribution services and how it disproportionately impacted our part of the district. I cc’d some stakeholders, and information from the letter was leaked to the local news. As a result, I was also asked to step down from a leadership opportunity in summer 2020. Friends and colleagues of mine were also targeted, which has impacted my stress levels at certain times. I was distraught by that level of push-back, but I was eventually able to focus on what I could learn from the situation.

Sometimes you will get punched, but you can’t be fly without ruffling some feathers. Since then, I’ve been moving more strategically. I have begun to organize with more groups in and outside of my school and district. This has brought me state and national attention. It’s important to keep adding value to your life and others as often as possible. It’s also important to work to repair harm when you do make mistakes. There are some relationships that may be irreparable -- remember that before, not after. When it hurts, take time to tend to your wounds. Practice self-care. Embrace the pain and trauma. Talk to colleagues and find a therapist. Go watch some funny TV shows (like Community or the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and pay attention to your loved ones. It’s okay to not be all things for all people, and folks will find a way to get through things without you. Take care of yourself because you’re the only one you’ll ever have, and, when you’re ready, get back out there and provide some more value to the lives of others.

What does an antiracist school counselor do differently?
Before doing anything, an antiracist school counselor must learn about what it means to be antiracist and learn about the sociohistorical context that shapes all our interactions. Antiracist school counselors reject the idea of colorblindness and ultimately use methods from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Culturally Responsive/Sustaining Pedagogies to lead, collaborate, and advocate for systemic change. Antiracist school counselors start with learning about multicultural, social justice, and antiracist theories and practices. This means they read or watch lectures related to academic research from scholars and ethical practitioners then apply evidence-based interventions whenever possible. During professional learning opportunities (e.g., trainings, conference sessions, webinars, etc.), they seek out sessions related to equity, social justice, and antiracism. Articles such as “Multicultural and social justice counseling competencies: institutional interventions for professional school counselors” (4) and books like We Want to Do More Than Survive by Bettina Love (5) are great places to start. They also consistently work on improving their own self-awareness by

  • using self-assessments (e.g., the implicit association test, personal self-assessment of anti-bias behavior, etc.)
  • acknowledging and examining power dynamics in their relationships
  • using listening and empathy skills to understand the perspectives of others when they are in socially advantaged positions
  • remaining curious about exploring the culture, lived experiences, and improving group outcomes of BIPOC

As they work to better understand Whiteness, BIPOC individuals, and the racist systems we all must navigate, antiracist school counselors also use their voice to center the needs of BIPOC. Additionally, antiracist school counselors collaborate and advocate with others to remove barriers BIPOC face while using their social advantage and capital to empower BIPOC to speak on their own behalf whenever possible. Last, antiracist school counselors use data to assess and increase systemic change at the micro, meso, and macro levels of society.

What advice would you give to a school counselor who’s ready to start implementing antiracism practices? What’s one piece that you feel is universal to all schools?
It takes time. Systemic change is a 3-5 year process on average in cases where everyone is on the same page. Racism is a deeply rooted problem that is interwoven with the fabric of our country. We must first be race conscious. Acknowledge the role race and racism have played in our society and critically examine how it operates in your school. You can start by using the 4th Ed. ASCA Model templates (6). Your School Data Summary, which can be found here, will help you create your school’s Data Story. Being intentional about antiracism will help you begin disaggregating data and identifying things that are difficult to discern without deeper analysis.

Next, use your Annual Administrative Conference to set intersectional antiracist priorities, program goals, roles, training opportunities, and materials. Antiracism and anti-Blackness create unique experiences for various BIPOC. For example, Black girls have some experiences that are similar to Black boys but also have many experiences that are unique that require targeted interventions. From here, you can begin using Action Plans to help determine how you will implement and assess your antiracist delivery. No matter what school you’re at, it is important to accurately assess your system’s readiness for change. These questions will help you do that:

  • What are you expected to do in your professional role?
  • What are the relationship dynamics of your team? What about your grade level?
  • What do you have control over in your building?
  • Do you have the support of your building leadership? If not, how do you create buy-in?
  • Who are possible collaborators that can help bring about change?
  • How much social capital and influence do you have? Do you have a shared understanding of the norms of your culture, a solid reputation, and the trust of your colleagues and students?
  • Do people listen when you speak? Who do they listen to that could share your cause?

When you’re ready to take action, start with what you have control over, then work to increase your influence by providing value to others (e.g., sending out helpful/easily digestible/immediately applicable information via a newsletter, share quotes and words of encouragement to staff, get involved with school committees, build positive relationships with key stakeholders, etc.). Use data to highlight concerns and spark conversations (e.g., disproportional attendance, discipline, and achievement data). Identify helpful, evidence-based solutions to suggest to decision-makers that are aligned with the building’s and district’s strategic plan (e.g., restorative practices increase school connectedness and improve school climate, trauma-informed practices reduce referrals/suspensions/days of missed instruction, which translates into higher grades, fearless SEL increases student engagement and performance, CR-PBIS improves school connectedness by clarifying school-wide expectations and rules in culturally responsive ways, etc.).

Why do you think it is important to be an antiracist school counselor?
Being antiracist is in our school counselor DNA. The ASCA Standards state that “School counselors demonstrate their belief that all students have the ability to learn by advocating for an education system that provides optimal learning environments for all students… special care is given to improve overall educational outcomes for students who have been historically underserved in educational services.” How can we live up to this expectation without being anti-racist?

Additionally, being antiracist is arguably one of the most American things one can be. James Baldwin once said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” At the time that this country was founded, its forefathers spoke of inalienable rights to which all people should have access. Unfortunately, at the time, they held a very narrow stance on who was viewed as a person. A majority of people were excluded from this view (e.g., women, BIPOC, gender and sexual minorities, non-landowning men, etc.). Additionally, they paradoxically spoke of life and freedom as many of them killed indigenous people, enslaved Black human beings, and simultaneously created/perpetuated racist systems to justify their heinous behavior. Even so, the lofty ideals of life, liberty, opportunity, equality, and protection are just as American as racism. It’s up to us to determine how the terms “American” and” school counselor” will be defined moving forward. Will our country be racist or antiracist? Will we be guidance counselors who specialize in obsolescence or antiracist school counselors who operate as agents of systemic change?


  1. David Wellman
  2. Ibram Kendi
  3. Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
  4. “Multicultural and social justice counseling competencies: institutional interventions for professional school counselors”
  5. Bettina Love
  6. ASCA 4th Ed-Annual agreement and data templates

Stay Connected &
Support CPRS

Donate Now