YW Boston testifies in favor of equal access to education in Massachusetts


Last Tuesday, July 23, 2019, YW Boston joined three other local organizations at the State House in support of An act to ensure equal access to education, including special education services, for all students in Massachusetts (H.432). YW Boston Advocacy Committee member and Public Policy & Advocacy Associate Chelsea Kamuene provided testimony on behalf of YW Boston to the Joint Committee on Education. Other organizations testifying in support of this bill included Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League.

The bill, petitioned by Representative Marjorie C. Decker, aims to ensure the analysis and publication of student-specific, cross-tabulated data on students regarding racial, ethnic, sex, economic status, English learner status, and disability status, among other identifiers, in an anonymized way that protects the privacy of each student. By analyzing the intersecting identities of students, we can understand how specific groups are being affected by bullying and sanctions, as well as look at other indicators such as graduation rates. Data must drive policies, so it’s essential to understand the magnitude of disparities faced by students in order to ensure equal access to quality education for everyone. The bill would not require any new information be collected, only that it be cross-tabulated and made publicly available.

YW Boston Advocacy & Public Policy Associate testifies on behalf of YW Boston at the State House

As part of YW Boston’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, our Advocacy Committee identified the school-to-prison pipeline as one of our advocacy priorities. Chelsea Kamuene’s testimony on behalf of YW Boston stemmed from the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the educational needs of Boston youth. Student bodies are comprised of girls of color, boys of color, black girls with a disability, black boys who are English learners, and a number of other complex identities. Generalization is how our children have become victims of bias, leaving them to feel unsafe and unsupported. For this reason, it is not helpful to view data presented on a single identity, such as race or disability, without seeing how other identity markers compound the data. How can we expect our children to reach their full potential in a system that fails to share information that is valuable to their academic success?

This fall, YW Boston is launching a new program, Fierce Youth Reigniting Excellence Initiative (known as F.Y.R.E.), which has a clear-cut focus on the needs of all girls of color. The program will focus on social justice education, positive identity development, and civic engagement. We will provide experiential learning opportunities and dialogue to build understanding and increase social emotional learning. Critical to F.Y.R.E.–and programs like it –is the availability of the cross-tabulation data covered by this bill H.432. We need this information to understand and better address the educational barriers and inequities that students may face on account of their race, ethnicity, disability, English Learner status, and/or sex. We cannot improve with limited data, and we cannot address inequities that we cannot see.

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About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. 

YW Boston Advocacy Committee

The Advocacy Committee supports YW Boston’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women by engaging elected officials, organizations and the public through legislative advocacy, coalition building, education and action. The committee develops and implements the organization’s two-year advocacy agenda in order to rectify structural barriers to equity and opportunity for women, girls and people of color.