Working to reduce the potential of bias in decision-making related to disciplinary actions
Most research has identified schools as a critical decision-point for students at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system. The purpose of the RTP grant is to reduce DMC in the juvenile justice system by providing outreach to School Attendance Review Boards (SARB) or any school entities responsible for identifying students who are at risk of dropping out of school and who have increased risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The Influence of Bias in DMC
DMC is assumed to be caused by many factors, such as poverty and school failure. But, little attention is paid to how bias might inform the decisions that result in school detention, suspensions, or dropouts. While many people would like to believe that student disciplinary decisions are based solely on the behaviors of the students, research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation on youth-serving systems show that the more discretion that exists in decision-making, the more likelihood that youth of color (especially African Americans, Latin, and Native Americans) will be perceived and treated more negatively than their white counterparts. This does not occur because teachers and others are intentionally hostile towards students of color; rather, it can be traced to unconscious biases that promote the perception of risk which can lead to small and virtually unnoticeable differences in how teachers, administrators, school resource officers, and school boards apply and interpret school policies and procedures.
Through DMC training and education, this Regional Training Program aims to reduce the potential of bias in decision-making related to disciplinary actions. Because decisions that impact student outcomes occur at many different decision points, stakeholders from youth-serving agencies such as education, juvenile justice, law enforcement, mental health, child welfare as well as parents, will be invited to participate in the training and activities of the RTP. This interdisciplinary approach is crucial to improving DMC outcomes.
If you know of an agency, institution, group, or individual who could benefit from these trainings – or you would simply like more information – please contact one of the DMCRTP team members listed below:
Dr. Rita Cameron Wedding
Rita Cameron Wedding, Ph.D. is the Chair of the department of Women’s Studies and a professor of Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies at Sacramento State University. Dr. Cameron Wedding’s scholarship focuses on race, gender and social class disparities in institutions like child welfare, education, and juvenile justice. She teaches courses and develops curricula that address implicit racial bias, and is a faculty for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Her curriculum on implicit bias is being used throughout the United States, most recently to train the Sacramento Police Department.
MSW—Project Outreach Coordinator
Courtney Warfield-Gibbs is an experienced human services social worker and trainer. Courtney has a master’s degree in social work. She has 10 years of experience in the field of Social Welfare. Courtney has worked as a Juvenile Court Social Worker in the State of California. As a Juvenile Court Social Worker, Courtney has been called as an expert witness for several Juvenile Judicial proceedings. She has also helped countless families navigate the juvenile court process. In addition to being a Juvenile Court Social Worker, Courtney worked as an Investigative Social Worker for Baltimore City Department of Social Services in Baltimore, Maryland. She also worked in Houston, Texas as a Social Worker for the Texas Department of Social Services as a Sexual Abuse Worker. Having worked in multiple regions across the country, within the child welfare industry, Courtney has gained vast experience in working with culturally diverse populations. Within her scope of a Social Worker, she has worked with and collaborated with various agencies to help meet the needs of families.
Courtney received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Morgan State University, in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her Master’s of Social Work from California State University Stanislaus. While in the Master’s program Courtney wrote her thesis on the Disproportionality of African Americans within the Child Welfare System. The focus of her research was to identify policies and practices that negatively influence and affect the entrance of minority children into the child welfare system.
She was a facilitator for the “Closing the Gap” Conference and the “One Social Worker, One Solution at A Time” training in San Joaquin County. She has co-facilitated All-Staff trainings on Disproportionality in Chicago, Oakland, Los Angeles, Ventura and San Francisco County.
Courtney is currently the project coordinator for the California Disproportionate Minority Contact Regional Training Project (DMC RTP).
MSW—Project Outreach Coordinator
Tasha D. Dunham is a social worker with extensive educational and practical experience in Child Welfare as a social worker and a supervisor. Within Child Protective Services, she worked for several years as a social worker in the Juvenile Court Intake Unit. In this capacity, she wrote numerous court reports that were submitted to the Juvenile Court Judge, provided expert testimony in Court proceedings, guided case plan development and facilitated reunification of families. Currently, Ms. Dunham works as a Social Worker Supervisor in the Intake and Assessment Unit of Child Protective Services. In this position, she has gained experience in implementing new practices, research, writing reports and presenting impact presentations. Ms. Dunham uses her writing and presentation experience to review and modify program policies and procedures; direct project management and organize critical decision making amongst peers and social workers within her unit.
Ms. Dunham is also an active member of the County Disproportionality Work Group, at which time she had the opportunity to work closely with employees from the Casey Foundation Program. She also has experience as a facilitator with Dr. Rita Cameron-Wedding, training groups of up to 400 people, on issues surrounding bias and disproportionality in Child Welfare. She was a facilitator for the “Closing the Gap” Conference and the “One Social Worker, One Solution at A Time” training in San Joaquin County. Ms. Dunham has also co-facilitated all-staff trainings on Disproportionality in Ventura and San Francisco Counties.
Ms. Dunham holds a Masters degree in Social work from the California State University, Stanislaus. Her thesis “Defining Social Justice Within A School Social Work Program: Implications for Curriculum Development” changed the educational direction of the Master’s program at CSU Stanislaus. Her research offered a significant contribution to the educational field of social work; resulting in curriculum transformation, syllabus readjustments and faculty renovation. During her enrollment in the Masters Program, Ms. Dunham did an internship at the California Youth Authority (CYA), at which time she coordinated a substance abuse treatment curriculum and provided one-on-one counseling for males at the O.H. Close facility of CYA.