Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 2020 Issue »

    “Our Stories Are Powerful”

    The Use of Youth Storytelling in Policy Advocacy to Combat the School-to-Prison Pipeline

    Jeffrey S. Moyer, Mark R. Warren, and Andrew R. King
    The use of narratives and storytelling has become an increasingly common strategy in grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts to influence policy change. Drawing on qualitative interviews and observations, Jeffrey Moyer, Mark Warren, and Andrew King present a case study of the successful campaign by Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) to pass SB100, a progressive Illinois law aimed at ending the school-to-prison pipeline. The authors show that personal storytelling, when combined with other approaches, constitutes an effective strategy for youth organizing groups in low-income communities of color to achieve racial equity and educational justice policy goals. In this case, youth leaders involved in VOYCE told legislators their personal stories of the harm done to them and their friends by zero-tolerance school discipline and spoke to the racial inequities they faced. In doing so, they countered previously held narratives of youth of color as troublemakers and violence-prone and created a moral urgency for legislators to act. Youth leaders used storytelling and data to build a larger alliance of supporters, which contributed to the passage of a bill that limited harsh discipline, promoted restorative justice alternatives, and took steps to close racial gaps in suspensions and expulsions.

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    Jeffrey S. Moyer (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7787-1555) is a doctoral candidate in public policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a lecturer in political science at Suffolk University. His current research looks at cannabis legalization in Massachusetts, focusing on the pathway of diffusion and the opportunity for social equity in communities impacted by criminalization. He is a contributing author, with King and Warren, of the chapter “Save Our Schools! Youth Leadership in the Boston Public School Walkout Movement” included in Education Matters (eds. Mesinas, Pickard, & Bessant, Rowman & Littlefield International, in press). Moyer received his master’s in public administration from Kutztown University and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, connecting K–12 schools to institutions of higher education.

    Mark R. Warren is a professor of public policy and public affairs at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He studies and works with community and youth organizing groups seeking to promote equity and justice in education, community development, and American democratic life. He is the author of five books, most recently Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement (Beacon Press, 2018). Warren has cofounded several networks promoting activist scholarship, community organizing, and movement building, including the People’s Think Tank on educational justice, the Urban Research Based Action Network, and the Special Interest Group on Community and Youth Organizing in the American Educational Research Association.

    Andrew R. King is a doctoral candidate in public policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a lecturer in political science at Suffolk University. His mixed-methods dissertation research explores the impacts of the New York City Community Schools Initiative on family empowerment and participation. His other research has centered around youth leadership in social movements and racial disparities in education. He is the lead author, with Moyer and Warren, of the chapter “Save Our Schools! Youth Leadership in the Boston Public School Walkout Movement” included in Education Matters (eds. Mesinas, Pickard, & Bessant, Rowman & Littlefield International, in press). King received his master’s from the New School University and worked for the New York City Council, where he directed education policy and a participatory budgeting initiative in East Harlem.
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    Summer 2020 Issue

    Abstracts

    Youth Voices in Education Research
    Editors’ Introduction
    Becca Spindel Bassett and Tatiana Geron

    Book Notes

    Girlhood in the Borderlands
    Lilia Soto

    The Heart of the Matter
    Peer Group Connection Students at Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies

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