Summer Institute on Education, Equity, and Justice Leveling the Playing Field: Intersecting Race and Disabilities

Virtual Conference • June 28-30, 2021


The annual American University (AU) School of Education Summer Institute on Education Equity and Justice (SIEEJ) was developed to provide professional development opportunities for community members, particularly educators, who want to learn promising practices that lead to equitable educational outcomes for underserved students, families, and communities. This year, #SIEEJthemoment as we move sessions virtually.

This year's theme is Leveling the Playing Field: Intersecting Race and Disabilities.

Sessions are designed to change both mindsets and practices. The overall goal of SIEEJ is to build a community of practice singularly focused on the strengths, challenges, and opportunities in the lives of young people of color and the communities in which they live.

Participants will be provided links to livestream all sessions in advance. All sessions will be closed captioned. Full recordings of the sessions will be made available to registered attendees.

We encourage you to engage with the sessions by using the hashtag #SIEEJthemoment.

Due to the virtual nature of this conference, certificates of participation will not be issued .

Teachers College Press Virtual Book Display

To view our Teachers College Press (TC Press) (Teachers College, Columbia University) virtual book display of new and noteworthy Teachers College Press titles selected for the SIEEJ 2021 conference community and special discount offer, please click here.

Don’t miss keynote speaker Gloria Ladson Billing’s forthcoming TCP titles as well as the new edited collection Teacher Educators as Critical Storytellers featured in the virtual book display. TC Press publishes professional resources in the field of education in areas such as multicultural education, equity, education policy, social justice education, leadership, literacy, curriculum, and special education.

Schedule of Events

DAY ONE (Monday, June 28, 2021)

11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Dean’s Welcome Address
Conference Overview
Introduction of SIEEJ Conference Planning Committee

12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Opening Keynote Speaker and Q&A with Bonnie St. John
Being a Champion at the Intersection of Race and Disability

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Panel Discussions
TOPIC: School Psychologist Perspective on the Overrepresentation of Black and Brown Students Referred for Special Education Services
DESCRIPTION: Overrepresentation of minorities in special education is a growing problem in schools today. Research indicates that factors such as test bias, poverty, poor general education instruction, and insufficient professional
development for working with diverse students can influence this
overrepresentation. In this session certified school psychologists will share their perspective on the overrepresentation of minorities in special education and what can be done to help alleviate this phenomenon.
MODERATOR: Robert Goldstein, Bilingual School Psychologist, Montgomery County Public Schools
PANELISTS: Crystal Dorn, District of Columbia Public Schools, Dimitri White, District of Columbia Public Schools, Dr. Nichole Vernon, District of Columbia Public Schools

2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Legal Scholars and Practitioners
TOPIC: The American with Disabilities Act (ADA): Past, Present, and Future
DESCRIPTION: The session is designed to provide you with the basic principles and core concepts of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). Panelists will expound upon the past, present, and future of the ADA legislation.
MODERATOR: Dean Robert Dinerstein, American University School of Law
PANELISTS: Panelists: Linda Smalls, District of Columbia Public Schools, Sarah Belson Irvine, American University, Claire Raj, University of South Carolina, John Rodrigues, ThinkLexic

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Shawn Anthony Robinson

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  
SIEEJ The Moment Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it.
Facilitator: Elissa Margolin

DAY TWO (Tuesday, June 29, 2021)

9:15 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Smooth Jazz at Breakfast

9:30 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.
Description: Conference overview and introductory comments.

9:45 a.m. -- 10:45 a.m.
Film Discussion: A Reckoning in Boston
Kafi Dixon dreams of starting a land cooperative for women of color who have experienced trauma and disenfranchisement in the city of Boston. By day she drives a city bus; at night she studies the humanities in a tuition-free course. Her classmate Carl Chandler, a community elder, is the class’s intellectual leader. White suburban filmmaker James Rutenbeck documents the students’ engagement with the humanities. He looks for transformations but is awakened to the violence, racism and gentrification that threaten Kafi and Carl's very place in the city. Troubled by his failure to bring the film together, he enlists the pair as collaborators with a share in the film revenues. Five years on, despite many obstacles, Kafi and Carl arrive at surprising new places in their lives—and James does too.
MODERATOR: Leslie A. Jones, Theatre Teacher, Alexandria City Public Schools and SIEEJ Committee Member 
PANELISTS: James Rutenbeck, Director; Kafi Dixon, Producer and Founder, Common Good Coop

11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Morning Keynote Speaker and Q&A with Dr. Donna Y. Ford

12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
Brown Bag Lunch Book Talk
Guest Author: Dr. Christopher Emdin, Associate Professor, Columbia University, Teachers College
New York Bestselling Author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and The Rest of Y’all Too
MODERATOR: Angie Miles, District of Columbia Public Schools

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
High School Students Panel
TOPIC: Self-Advocacy on High School Campuses
DESCRIPTION: Self-advocacy is one of the most important skills for a young adult with cultural and learning differences. This session will provide high school students with basic knowledge of self-advocacy skills needed to be successful in high school and beyond.
MODERATOR: Meagan Alderton, Chairperson, Alexandria City Public Schools School Board
PANELISTS: Sylvia Rahim, Alexandria City Public Schools, Adriana Moncree, Alexandria City Public Schools, Saniyya Townsend, Berkeley County Public Schools, Carl Ngwa, D.C. Public Schools, Devon Bush, D.C. Public Schools
Session Sponsor: Iota Upsilon Lambda Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
College Student Panel
TOPIC: Self-Advocacy on College Campuses
DESCRIPTION: Self-advocacy is one of the most important skills for a young adult with cultural and learning differences. This session will provide college students with basic knowledge of self-advocacy skills needed to be successful in college and beyond.
MODERATOR: Dr. Jamal Watson, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
PANELISTS: Olivia Emery, American University, Tammy Nguyen, American University, Joshua Suh, American University, Michael A. Brown, University of South Carolina, Jordan Hill, Harvard University, Roderick Hart III, Morehouse College
Session Sponsor: Diverse Issues In Higher Education

3:15 p.m.  – 4:45 p.m.
Panel Discussion
TOPIC: The Model Minority Myth and Its Impact on Asian American Students
DESCRIPTION: This session will explore how perpetuating the “model minority” myth further fosters systemic racism, ultimately perpetuating white dominance. Attendees will learn how this often overlooked myth can impact our abilities to deepen our understanding in becoming anti-racists leaders.
MODERATOR: Dr. Nicholas D. Hartlep, Associate Professor of Education Studies and Robert Charles Billings Chair in Education, Berea College.
PANELISTS: Gilbert Park, Ball State University; Amardeep Kahlon, Austin Community College; Valerie Pang, San Diego State University; Guofang Li, University of British Columbia 

3:15 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Panel Discussion
TOPIC: Postsecondary Transition for Students with Disabilities: Leveling the Playing Field
DESCRIPTION: This session will help high school students with Individualized Education Program (IEP) and their parents understand how to better use the IEP to assist with transition into adulthood. Panelists should help attendees further their understanding on how each part of the IEP can help meet the student’s needs and move them in the direction of their hopes and dreams.
MODERATOR: Erica Wingate, District of Columbia Public Schools, Office of Teaching and Learning.
PANELISTS: Trudy Fleisher, The Lab School, Aimee Cepeda, District of Columbia Public Schools, Brittany Patrick, District of Columbia Public Schools, Renae D. Mayes, University of Arizona, Robin Jamison-Moorer, Alexandria City Public Schools, Linda Burden, Alexandria City Public Schools

5:00 p.m.– 6:00 p.m.
Happy Hour Book Talk with Dr. Ivory Toldson, Professor, Howard University
Author of “No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People”
Moderated by Dr. Traci Dennis

DAY THREE (Wednesday, June 30, 2021)

12:45 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Dean’s Opening Comments
Conference Overview
Introduction of SIEEJ Conference Planning Committee

1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
The Edmond Gordon Lecture: Closing Keynote Speaker and Q&A 
TOPIC: Renown scholar and educator, Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings will deliver the first Gordon Distinguished Lecture. 
MODERATOR: Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy

2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Panel Discussion
TOPIC: Exploring the Intersection between Race and Disabilities
DESCRIPTION: Racism and ableism are often thought of as parallel systems of oppression that work separately to perpetuate social hierarchy. This session will explore the lived experiences of people of color with intersecting identities.
MODERATOR: Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Teachers College, Columbia University
PANELISTS: Dr. Damien LaRock, NYC Department of Education, Miso Kwak, Human Services Research Institute, Learning Ally, Crystal Powless, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, Yokasta Urena, NYC Department of Education, Dr. Suzzanna Javed, Suffolk Community College, Kristen Witucki, Learning Ally; Vistas Education Partner

2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
Panel Discussion
TOPIC: The Reawakening of Three: Resiliency & Synergy Despite Discrimination
DESCRIPTION: 3 women representing different races and generations speak to their experiences overcoming adversity, along with the synergy they built through sharing their stories. Vicky Post, Dr. Susan Mohammed, and Leslie A. Jones share stories of resiliency in the face of gender and racial discrimination.
MODERATOR: Ra'Alim Shabazz, Social Studies Teacher, Alexandria City Public Schools
PANELISTS: Vicky Post, Student, The Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Susan Mohammed, Professor, The Pennsylvania State University, Leslie A. Jones, Theatre Teacher, Alexandria City Public Schools and SIEEJ Committee Member

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion
TOPIC: The Impact of COVID-19: Navigating virtual learning while differently abled
DESCRIPTION: This session will provide specific guidance on how teachers can deliver lessons online to students, which has been a challenge as schools transition to online learning and hybrid models during the coronavirus pandemic.
MODERATOR: Dr. Kenneth Brown, District of Columbia Public Schools
PANELISTS: Bishop St. Claire Walker, Community Activist, Gary Hamilton, American University Doctoral Program, Tomiko Ball, American University Doctoral Program, Keesha Ceran, Teaching for Change, Jessica Bruce, American University

4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion
TOPIC: The Impact of Stuttering in Educational Settings and Beyond
DESCRIPTION: Stuttering places students at risk for being stereotyped and experiencing identity difficulties at school and in the workplace. Findings from research studies indicate that stuttering significantly impacts the lives of people of color and influences how they navigate career choices. The session will explore how persons with a stuttering disability describe their educational experiences in K-12 and university settings, and how those experiences shaped their lives and decision making.
MODERATOR: Carl Coffey
PANELISTS: Dr. Saundra Russell-Smith, Illinois Public Schools, Eljay Gemoto, National Stuttering Association, Leah Graham, Childcare Resources, Inc., De’Angelo Dean, Trident Medical Center, Derrick Tanner, Jr., American University
Session Sponsor: The National Stuttering Association

SIEEJ Speakers

Dr. Donna Y. Ford
Dr. Donna Y. Ford is a Distinguished Professor of Education and Human Ecology and Kirwan Institute Faculty Affiliate at The Ohio State University's College of Education and Human Ecology. She is in the Educational Studies Dept., Special Education Program. Professor Ford was formerly an endowed chair at Vanderbilt University in the College of Education.  Dr. Ford has been a Professor of Special Education at the Ohio State University, an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Virginia, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky. Professor Ford conducts research primarily in gifted education and multicultural/urban education. Specifically, her work focuses on: (1) the achievement gap; (2) recruiting and retaining culturally different students in gifted education; (3) multicultural curriculum and instruction; (4) culturally competent teacher training and development; (5) African-American identity; and (6) African-American family involvement. She consults with school districts, and educational and legal organizations on such topics as gifted education under-representation and Advanced Placement, multicultural/urban education and counseling, and closing the achievement gap. Professor Ford has written over 300 articles and book chapters; she has made over 2,000 presentations at professional conferences and organizations, and in school districts.

Bonnie St. John
Bonnie knows a lot about achieving success against incredible odds. Despite having her right leg amputated at age five, she became the first African-American ever to win medals in Winter Olympic competition, taking home a silver and two bronze medals at the 1984 Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria. In recognition of this historic achievement, Bonnie was quoted on millions of Starbucks coffee cups and was honored by President George W. Bush at a White House celebration of Black History Month. More than an Olympic skier, Bonnie graduated with honors from Harvard, won a Rhodes Scholarship, earned numerous sales awards at IBM, and was appointed by President Bill Clinton as a director of the White House National Economic Council. President Obama named her to represent the US in delegations to both the Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver and the Summer Paralympics in Rio. She holds several honorary doctorate degrees, and was recently lauded with her portrait in the main hall of Trinity College, Oxford, as a distinguished alumna. Bonnie St. John has been featured extensively in both national and international media including: The Today Show, GMA, CNN, CBS Morning News, NBC News, PBS, NPR, and The New York Times, as well as People, “O”, Forbes, Success, and Essence magazines, to name just a few. NBC Nightly News called Bonnie, “One of the five most inspiring women in America.”

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings
Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings is the former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and faculty affiliate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Ladson-Billings is currently the President of the National Academy of Education. She was the 2005-2006 president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Ladson-Billings’ research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with African American students. She also investigates Critical Race Theory applications to education. She is the author of the critically acclaimed books The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children and Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms, and numerous journal articles and book chapters. She is the former editor of the American Educational Research Journal and a member of several editorial boards. Her work has won numerous scholarly awards including the H.I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship, the NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Palmer O. Johnson outstanding research award. During the 2003-2004 academic year, she was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In fall of 2004, she received the George and Louise Spindler Award from the Council on Anthropology and Education for significant and ongoing contributions to the field of educational anthropology. She holds honorary degrees from Umeå University (Umeå Sweden), University of Massachusetts-Lowell, the University of Alicante (Alicante, Spain), the Erickson Institute (Chicago), and Morgan State University (Baltimore). She is a 2018 recipient of the AERA Distinguished Research Award, and she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2018.

Dr. Shawn Anthony Robinson
Shawn Anthony Robinson, PhD, is a senior research associate in the Wisconsin's Equity and Inclusion Laboratory and instructional program manager in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Robinson’s scholarship focuses on the intersection of race, dyslexia, and giftedness (i.e., creativity and leadership), and how the misidentification of behavior/emotional disorders neglects the academic and social development of African American boys with an actual learning disability in Special Education. Robinson also brings a wealth of academic experience, training, and knowledge about the psychological development of dyslexia, which he learned as a graduate student and practitioner in the field. His undergraduate work was completed at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, his master’s at DePaul University, and his doctorate in language and literacy from Cardinal Stritch University. Robinson’s research stems from his lived experiences as an African American male who was in Special Education throughout his entire PreK-12 journey and graduated after his final two years in an alternative high school reading at an elementary level. Based on his personal academic journey and research interests, Robinson is a volunteer with Special Olympics, runs summer reading programs through the Boys and Girls Club, and serves on the board of directors of the International Dyslexia Association.


Dr. Christopher Emdin
Dr. Christopher Emdin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University; where he also serves as Director of the Science Education program and Associate Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education. He is an alumni fellow at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University and served as STEAM Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State and Minorities in Energy Ambassador for the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Emdin is a social critic, public intellectual and science advocate whose commentary on issues of race, culture, inequality and education have appeared in dozens of influential periodicals including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

Emdin holds a Ph.D in Urban Education with a concentration in Mathematics, Science, and Technology; Masters degrees in both Natural Sciences and Education Administration, and Bachelors degrees in Physical Anthropology, Biology, and Chemistry. He is the creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement, and a much sought-after public speaker on a number of topics that include hip-hop education, STEM education, politics, race, class, diversity, and youth empowerment. He is also an advisor to numerous international organizations, school districts, and schools. He is the author of the award winning book, Urban Science Education for the Hip-hop Generation and the New York Times bestseller For White Folks Who Teach In the Hood and the Rest of Ya’ll too.

Dr. Ivory A. Toldson
Dr. Ivory A. Toldson is the president and CEO of the QEM Network, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Negro Education. Previously, Dr. Toldson was appointed by President Barack Obama to devise national strategies to sustain and expand federal support to HBCUs as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCUs). He also served as senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and contributing education editor for The Root, where he debunked some of the most pervasive myths about African-Americans in his Show Me the Numbers column. Dr. Ivory A. Toldson was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the executive director, for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  In addition to ongoing work with elected officials, government executives, HBCU leaders and advocacy groups, Dr. Toldson conceptualized the White House Initiative on HBCUs All-Stars program, which identifies and engages the top HBCU scholars. He also co-authored a series of blogs on federal sponsorships for various federal agencies and hosted a series of webinars, in an effort to increase the approximately $6 billion of federal revenue that flows to 100 HBCUs.

2021 SIEEJ Planning Committee

The SIEEJ Planning Committees's key purpose is to coordinate the success of the SIEEJ Virtual Conference.

  • Bonnie Berry – Conference Partnerships
  • Steven Crudele-Roberts – Conference Registration
  • SOE Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy – Conference Oversight
  • Leslie A. Jones – Conference Speakers
  • Jacob Ortiz – DC Public Schools Liaison 
  • Antonio Ellis – Conference Director
  • Tess Saffar – Conference Logistics
  • Benjamin Zenker – Social Media & Digital Design
  • Danielle Sodani - School of Education Liaison 

  • Anika Ragins-Riley - Sponsorship Coordinator

  • Derrick L. Tanner - General Support

  • Lumumba Dunduza - General Support

  • Shanique Carmichael - General Support

Conference Resources

Please see below for a list of 2021 SIEEJ resources:

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Dr. Christopher Emdin
Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools.

No BS (Bad Stats) by Dr. Ivory Toldson
What if everything you thought you knew about Black people generally, and educating Black children specifically, was based on BS (bad stats)? We often hear things like, “Black boys are a dying breed,” “There are more Black men in prison than college,” “Black children fail because single mothers raise them,” and “Black students don’t read.” In No BS, Ivory A. Toldson uses data analysis, anecdotes, and powerful commentary to dispel common myths and challenge conventional beliefs about educating Black children. With provocative, engaging, and at times humorous prose, Toldson teaches educators, parents, advocates, and students how to avoid BS, raise expectations, and create an educational agenda for Black children that is based on good data, thoughtful analysis, and compassion. No BS helps people understand why Black people need people who believe in Black people enough not to believe every bad thing they hear about Black people.

Untold Narratives African Americans Who Received Special Education Services and Succeeded Beyond Expectations
This edited book reflects a much needed area of scholarship as the voices of African American (AA) or Black students defined by various labels such as learning disability, blindness/visual impairment, cognitive development, speech or language impairment, and hearing impairment are rare within the scholarly literature. Students tagged with those identifiers within the Pk-20 academic system have not only been ignored, and discounted, but have also had their learning framed from a deficit perspective rather than a strength-based perspective. Moreover, it was uncommon to hear first person narratives about how AA students have understood their positions within the general education and special education systems.

Therefore, with a pervasive lack of knowledge when it comes to understanding the experiences of AA with disabilities, this book describes personal experiences, and challenges the idea that AA students with disabilities are substandard. While this book will emphasize successful narratives, it will also provide counter-narratives to demystify the myth that those with disabilities cannot succeed or obtain terminal degrees. Overall, this edited book is a much needed contribution to the scholarly literature and may help teachers across a wide array of academic disciplines in meeting the academic and social needs of AA students with disabilities.

Use the special conference discount code of "UN2021." when ordering your book to receive a paperback for $30 and a hardcover for $50!

SIEEJ in the Media

Diverse: Issues In Higher Education Iota Upsilon Lambda Chapter Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.   Life Center Fellowship of Interdependent Churches National Stuttering Association Teachers College Press VLS Hair Braided Beauty Studio logo collage


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