Having access to learning is a portal to opportunity, a key to unlocking your dreams and leaving doors open for those who come after you. That’s what education has been for Dr. Monique Morris, an author, scholar, justice educator and die-hard Prince fan who, in sixth grade, found herself at a fork in the road. She got into a fight with a boy who’d provoked her. And instead of suspending her, expelling her, or arresting her and pushing her away, Dr. Morris’ teachers reconnected her to her learning community—a key moment in the life of a girl who’d been dealing with sexual abuse and violence in her home. This moment of restoration paved the path for Dr. Morris to go on to earn a doctorate in education. Others in Dr. Morris’ situation haven’t been as fortunate, and find their studies interrupted by disciplinary action and a descent down the slippery slope known commonly as the “school to prison pipeline,” where they are pushed out of the education experience and criminalized by administrators. Dr. Morris uses her own education and experience to advocate for Black and brown students, encouraging schools to look at themselves as places of healing and restoration, not punishment, so that more students of color can become the scholars they are meant to be. Because no person is “unrecoverable,” and the important“freedom work of education begins when teachers ultimately see themselves as healers.
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