Sunday, December 29, 2013

CRISP: Exhibit to Capture Social Worker’s Contributions in Public Policy

Spreading the word about this exciting new exhibit on the contributions of social workers in public policy. Stay tune for more details in the future....

As part of an ongoing commitment to capture the historical and present-day contribution’s social workers have made to public policy, a collection of Congressional Social Work Caucus and Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy photographs and documents will be placed on display for public viewing on Capitol Hill. Dr. Angela S. Henderson, Executive Director of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy said, “the exhibit will increase public awareness regarding the monumental, leadership efforts social workers have made in impacting and shaping public policy.” The collection will be featured for one-day as part of Social Work Month 2014. Dr. Henderson plans to open a social work gallery/museum with a public policy focus in the near future.

Written By: Angela Henderson, PhD

End-of-the-Year Cleaning: More Macro Social Work Articles

I was browsing an unpublished website when I stumbled upon these links about macro social work. I wanted to share them with the readers who have an interest in pursuing this type of work. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NYTimes: In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary

The New York Times published an article that highlights the 50th annivesrary of the War on Poverty (2014). Click here for more information about the War on Poverty (link will redirect you to America Public Media).

When President Lyndon Johnson declared his war on poverty on Jan. 8, 1964, almost exactly 50 years ago, 19 percent of Americans were poor.

“The richest nation on earth can afford to win it,” he reasoned, as he proposed a clutch of initiatives from expanding food stamps to revamping unemployment insurance. “We cannot afford to lose it.”

A half-century later, our priorities have changed.

In November, food benefits were cut for approximately 48 million Americans by an average of 7 percent, costing the typical recipient about $9 a month, as the emergency expansion of the food stamp program enacted in the depths of the great recession was allowed to expire.

Next month, 1.3 million jobless workers are scheduled to stop receiving an unemployment check, after Congress’s refusal to prolong the extension of emergency jobless benefits to up to 73 weeks, from 26. Perhaps as many as five million people will lose their benefit over the next year.

But while politicians’ attention has wandered, poverty remains uncomfortably close to where it was five decades ago.

The official poverty rate today is 15 percent. But by a newly deployed, more comprehensive Census Bureau definition, which provides a more realistic tab on people’s needs and takes into account the effect of government benefits, 16 percent of Americans are poor.

This is just 3 percentage points less than in 1967, the earliest year for which the data is available. It amounts to 50 million people.

[UPDATE: January 8, 2014]: Check out this New York Times follow-up article, 50 Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag and Room for Debate: Does the U.S. Need Another War on Poverty?.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Is Graduate School Via Photos

Whether you are pursuing a master's or PhD degree, this is a visual depiction of graduate school:

For those of you currently in graduate school, good luck on your final exams and papers!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Inside Higher Ed: A Semester of Racial Tensions

In this semseter alone, racial tensions on college campuses have hit the news media as specific incidents (racial harassment at San Jose State University; graduate students of color sit-in at UCLA; blackface and ghetto fraternity parties at public institutions; and Being Black at Michigan Twitter campaign at the University of Michigan) sadly revealed that we do not live in a post-racial society. While these incidents may be shocking to some Americans, it is not surprising to African American faculty and students, who often feel isolated, alienated, ostralized, and discriminated against on college campuses. Inside Higher Ed interviewed Spelman College president and race relations expert, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. Here were some of the interview questions in the article:

Q: When authorities charged white San Jose State University students with tormenting a black student for months, many were shocked that this could have gone on for so long with no one noticing or intervening -- even when the students allegedly hung up photos of Hitler and the Confederate flag. Were you shocked that this could happen on a college campus?

Q: Also this fall, we have seen black students at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Michigan use social media to voice frustrations with their relatively low numbers and the way they are perceived. What does it say to you that these students feel the need to use social media to draw attention to their concerns -- and that they have been so successful in in fact getting attention in this way?

Q: We have also seen this fall -- as we seem to every fall -- a series of parties with offensive racially charged themes, followed by apologies in which party organizers appear surprised the the use of blackface or "ghetto" themes is offensive. Why is it possible for college students today to be unaware that such actions will offend?

President Obama's Speech on Economic Mobility

President Obama's December 6 speech on the state of economic mobility in America highlighted major themes in the history of social welfare. Consider how these policies affected the social and economic well-being of generations of Americans. In Obama's speech, social workers were at the forefront in investigating social problems and implementing these major social policies. Yet, these safety nets are slowly being dismantled by powerful forces that want society to return to serfdom (servitude). We cannot continue to live in denial -- economic mobility is a serious problem in America. Here is an excerpt of his speech:

It was Abraham Lincoln, a self-described “poor man’s son,” who started a system of land grant colleges all over this country so that any poor man’s son could go learn something new.

When farms gave way to factories, a rich man’s son named Teddy Roosevelt fought for an eight-hour workday, protections for workers, and busted monopolies that kept prices high and wages low.

When millions lived in poverty, FDR fought for Social Security, and insurance for the unemployed, and a minimum wage.

When millions died without health insurance, LBJ fought for Medicare and Medicaid.

Together, we forged a New Deal, declared a War on Poverty in a great society. We built a ladder of opportunity to climb, and stretched out a safety net beneath so that if we fell, it wouldn’t be too far, and we could bounce back. And as a result, America built the largest middle class the world has ever known. And for the three decades after World War II, it was the engine of our prosperity.

Now, we can’t look at the past through rose-colored glasses. The economy didn’t always work for everyone. Racial discrimination locked millions out of poverty -- or out of opportunity. Women were too often confined to a handful of often poorly paid professions. And it was only through painstaking struggle that more women, and minorities, and Americans with disabilities began to win the right to more fairly and fully participate in the economy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Truth About Race in a Post-Racial Society

Another excellent post about race and racism in the so-called "post-racial society" on Everyday Sociology by a scholar, Rachelle Winkle-Wagner, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I agree with her that the United States is long overdue a real conversation about race.

One lesson we can take from this is that it is scary for many people to encounter a person of color in this country. Some people have been driven to literally shooting Black people dead, even in situations where these people are in desperate need of our collective care. We are teaching our children that they cannot ask for help, they cannot turn to their neighbor. This also has serious consequences for social mobility and educational attainment; we have known for quite a while now that students who feel alienated are less likely to go as far in education....I fear that each and every time that something like these doorstep shootings occur, it sends a signal to communities of color that they are less safe in this country. I recently had a conversation with a scholar of color who said that he was afraid to walk his dog too early in the morning for fear of getting shot. We have created an environment where peoples’ everyday freedoms are in question because of their skin color. All this is amidst a so-called “post-racial” society.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Trailer: Inequality for All (2013)

A brand new film about the widening income inequality between the rich and the poor in the United States by Robert Reich. Watch the film trailer:

One of the best ways to help people understand the challenges we face, is with a movie that can grab an audience and move them to action. And this movie will do exactly that. -- Robert Reich

Robert Reich is a best-selling author of thirteen books, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at University of California-Berkeley, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, and a foremost expert on economics. In the film, Reich recommends six solutions: (1) raise the minimum wage, (2) strengthen workers' voices, (3) invest in P-16 education, (4) reform Wall Street, (5) fix the tax system and (6) get big money out of politics. Reich discusses his film project in greater detail in an interview with Moyers and Company.

Becker's "Super ZIPs and Economic Inequality" Blog Post

I read an excellent blog post on Everyday Sociology about growing income inequality and neighborhood segregation in the United States. Literally, where you live (zip code) can determine your future life outcomes. Check out the excerpt below:

Surely, affluent individuals have moved away from less affluent people in the past. The massive “white-flight” out of cities and into suburbs following World War II is a prime example of this. In larger metro areas, super ZIPs tend to be contiguous to one another, forming entire suburban regions of prosperity where one would have to travel quite some distance to see any sort of poverty.

Yet, the urban super ZIP regions found in New York City illustrate inequality far more starkly. Take for instance the cluster of super ZIPs in East Manhattan. A single neighborhood, East Harlem, separates the 10128 ZIP code in East Manhattan from the 10454 ZIP code in the South Bronx. The Manhattan ZIP code has a score of 96, while the Bronx ZIP code has a score of 3. In many places, it seems that your chances of either going to college or going to prison depend on if you live on one side of the freeway or the other.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Inside Higher Ed: College Counseling Matters for Gifted and Talented Low-Income Students

A study by Harvard and Stanford researchers revealed the obvious: gifted and talented low-income students often do not apply to selective higher education institutions for a variety of reasons. One factor is the students are often unaware of what colleges and universities exist beyond their region. Another factor is students may also want to live closer to home so that they can provide financial support for their families. From Inside Higher Ed:

A theme of several studies in the last year has been that there are plenty of academically talented low-income students who for some combination of reasons are not applying to competitive colleges to which they would probably be admitted.

A new study along those lines -- this time documenting the impact of intense college counseling -- was released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study (abstract available here) found that a nonprofit group that focuses on college counseling in Minneapolis-St. Paul had a significant impact in increasing the rate at which low-income students enrolled in four-year colleges, including competitive institutions.

The study was conducted by Christopher Avery of Harvard University -- co-author (with Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University) of a study released in December that found that most highly talented, low-income students never apply to a single competitive college. That work has set off widespread discussions about what sort of interventions might make a difference.

[UPDATE: January 9, 2014]: Check out this similar article by the New York Times, How to Help College Students Graduate. Sadly, when it comes to degree completion, where you attend college matters a great deal.

The situation is entirely different for most undergraduates, especially poor and minority students. All too often they’re steered to schools where they receive little if any support in mastering tough courses, decoding arcane requirements for a major, sorting out life problems or navigating the maze of institutional requirements. Graduation rates at these so-called dropout factories, especially those in urban areas that largely serve low-income, underprepared minority populations, are as abysmal as 5 percent.

Where a student goes makes all the difference. Consider a Chicago public high school graduate with a grade-point average of 3.5. If she enrolls at Chicago State University, a Washington Monthly investigation shows, the odds against her finishing are high — the school’s six-year graduation rate hovers at 20 percent. Her chances measurably improve if she attends the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the completion rate is 57 percent. And if she goes to Northwestern, just a few miles away, 93 percent of her classmates will graduate.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

REPOST: Asians and Whites Against Blacks and Latinos? The Myths and Realities of Affirmative Action and College-Bound High School Students

In March 2013, Rachel Christmas Derrick wrote one of the best essays I have ever read on the merits and benefits of race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions. I provide an excerpt below:

A high school teacher recently gave a student a lower grade than she expected. She told him after class, "I can't get grades like this! I'm not brown. If I was, it wouldn't matter, but since I'm white, I won't get into college with grades like this."

Two close friends were discussing where they were applying. The Asian-American student said to the African-American student, "Of course you’ll get into your first choice—you're black."

A white mother lamented, "I didn't know what to say to my son when he told me that a less academically gifted classmate, who’s Puerto Rican, got into a highly competitive college where my son was wait-listed."

"Most of the white and Asian students I hear talking about affirmative action really dislike it," David Joffe, a history teacher at Hunter College High School, a leading New York City school, says. "They rarely reference the historical or, for that matter, the current socio and political contexts that make race-based affirmative action, in my mind, still necessary. When it's discussed in terms of increasing diversity, many white and Asian students see it as meaning fewer of them in favor of more black and Latino students. So they view it as anti-white and anti-Asian."

These uncomfortable issues, which high schools across New York City and across the country are grappling with, were at the core of a thought-provoking discussion at a Hunter PTA meeting.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sign the petition: Protest "Shopping While Black" Policy in New York City

Lately in Manhattan, several black shoppers have been harassed by NYPD for making purchases at luxury stores that they can't possibly afford (even though they have the receipt to prove it). A third incident occurred at Macy's in Manhattan to Ron Brown, a celebrity and actor on the HBO series, Treme. The accusation is strikingly similar to what detectives allegedly asked a 19-year-old black student from Queens after he splurged on a $350 Ferragamo belt at Barneys this past April.

The third black New Yorker suing the NYPD for an allegedly unlawful stop and search while shopping is an actor who starred with Sean Connery in “Finding Forrester” and in HBO’s “Treme” – and he is after only justice, not money, his lawyer told the Post.

“The bottom line is…this isn’t about money, this about proving a point,” said Robert Brown’s attorney, John Eleftrekais.

“Police officers ran up to him, arrested him, and then kept him in a jail cell in Macy’s,” his attorney, John Elefterakis told the Post. After handing over his ID, Brown “was told that his identification was false and that he could not afford to make such an expensive purchase,” according to the Manhattan Supreme Court suit.

Over 3,400 people have signed a petition calling on the rap superstar Jay Z to drop a lucrative partnership with Barneys over the alleged racial profiling incidents. Sign your name and send a message to Barney's and other luxury stores that you do not tolerate blatant racial prejudice and discrimination. Stores don't mind taking minority people's money, but will have the police to harass them once they leave the building. America is a free country, and people have a right to shop wherever they please. The phenomenon of shopping while black is criminal and should cease!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Welfare for the rich? The federal government even subsidizes high-income households

It's hard to believe that even the rich are receiving some type of welfare from the federal government. This report examines assets in homeownership, entrepreneurship, retirement, savings, and education. Access the full report (2012) at the NewAmerica Foundation:

Savings and assets are the building blocks for economic mobility and security. They provide a buffer against unexpected events as well as a means to move up the economic ladder with productive investments, such as by buying a home, starting a business, saving for retirement, saving for emergencies, or going to college.

Currently, the federal budget allocates a substantial amount of resources to support these priorities. Yet most of the benefits are delivered through tax breaks and subsidies that favor higher-income households. Families with lower incomes and fewer resources receive much less support.

This site describes how families are faring across 5 key policy areas that typically help people accumulate wealth and build assets, identifies the current spending to support these objectives, and suggests how we could do better. Scroll down or click on the links above to jump to a specific chapter.

Moneywatch: More U.S. students borrowing for college

Moneywatch recently released a report stating that more American students are borrowing student loans to pay for college. This trend is problematic because most graduates do not obtain high-paying entry-level positions that enables them to repay the student loan debt.

The number of U.S. students who borrow money for college continues to climb, while the number of graduates who are paying off these loans is slipping.

A new report by the Department of Education found that 64 percent of grads from the class of 2008 borrowed for college, compared with 64 percent for the class of 2000 and 49 percent for those graduating in 1993. The average amount that the students borrowed has continued to spiral up, rising from $14,000 in 1993 to $24,700 in 2008.

While the debt load was larger for the later graduates, they were less likely to have begun repaying their college loans a year after graduation. Sixty percent of 2008 grads were repaying their loans a year after receiving their degrees compared to 65 percent for the 2000 grads and 66 percent for the earliest grads in the study.

A larger number of the most recent graduates, at 31 percent, faced high monthly loan payments -- defined as amounts that were greater than 12 percent of their income -- than their counterparts who graduated in 1993 and 2000 (22 percent and 18 percent, respectively.)

Whether students borrowed for college was partially dependent on what type of institutions they attended. For the most recent graduating class that the report covered, 90 percent of students attending for-profit schools took out a loan, compared with 62 percent who graduated from public universities and 70 percent who attended private, nonprofit schools.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Books about Diversity and Civic Engagement in Higher Education

One of my specialties is diversity and social justice in higher education. My research fall within two areas: (a) access and equity and (b) civic learning and democratic engagement. In honor of Careers in Student Affairs Month (October), I list my favorite books on these topics below.

This list will be continuously updated every year.

October is Careers in Student Affairs Month

Student Affairs. Student Life. Co-curriculum. Student Services.

What do these terms have in common? They focus on teaching and learning outside the classroom. This can be residence housing, campus dining halls, recreational activities, student organizations, service-learning, the list goes on. They support the academic mission of the higher education institution. Student affairs complement academic affairs. They educate the whole student (identity, cognitive, moral, affective, experiential, etc.) so that students can make meaning out of their experiences. Student affairs educators apply developmental theories that guide their work in providing services and inclusive spaces for college students.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in student affairs? Are you interested in applying to graduate programs in higher education and student affairs? Don't forget to browse my other links on student affairs:

Considering a Career in Student Affairs?

Functional Areas in Higher Education and Student Affairs

Careers in Student Affairs (courtesy of NASPA)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Infographic: Choosing the Right Graduate Degree

Does your future career require an advanced degree? Check out this cool infographic by GradSchoolHub on how to choose the right graduate degree:

Choosing the Right Degree
Source: Choosing the Right Degree

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Detroit News: Minority enrollment mixed at Michigan universities under affirmative action ban

The news isn't good for racial minorities in Michigan. From The Detroit News:
Since Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in higher education and government was passed in 2006, there are more students of color at the state’s smaller universities but fewer at the larger universities and in the three largest medical schools, according to a report unveiled Friday.
The study also showed state hiring of women and people of color has been reduced in the wake of the 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment, which is being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments next month. Commissioned by the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, the report is the first to set a baseline and measure the impact of the law, which also is in place in five other states.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50th Anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech in Washington, DC

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. You can watch the video below:

From the Detroit Free Press:
WASHINGTON - Fifty years to the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, thousands are returning to the spot on a rainy Wednesday to commemorate the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Wednesday's commemoration culminates a week's worth of events marking the 1963 march, which was organized by civil rights and labor groups. Wednesday's event will feature speeches by President Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

The gathering, titled "Let Freedom Ring," is organized by the 50th Anniversary Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom, a group represented by the NAACP, the National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights organizations.

Nearly five hours of speeches and performances are expected to mark the occasion, including appearances by everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Andrew Young to Caroline Kennedy, just named by Obama to be ambassador to Japan.

Among the speakers: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march.

Obama is well-versed in talking about race but does so rarely. As the nation's first African-American president, he has used his own improbable story as evidence of how far the nation has come. Even before he was elected president, then-Sen. Obama in 2007 told worshipers at the historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, Ala., "I'm here because somebody marched. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants."

He referred to King and his contemporaries as "the Moses generation," but said "we've got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do."

In office, he has only occasionally talked about race. Perhaps most significantly, in 2012 he commented on the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Fla., saying of the young African-American victim, "You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves."

After a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in July of the shooting, Obama said, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. ... When you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there's a lot of pain. It's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn't go away."

[UPDATE] If you are searching for President Barack Obama's speech that commemorates the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, click here to access the video and full transcript. It was awesome and inspirational. The American people needed to hear this speech to remind themselves that the struggle for justice, equality, and freedom still continues to this day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How to Enroll in a Social Work Master's Program

Click here if you are searching for my post on how to enroll in a higher education master's program.

Social work is an interdisciplinary field that provides a framework for understanding human behavior, identifying community needs and assets, developing social policies and programs, and empowering communities and disenfranchised groups. Social workers are therapists, community organizers, program managers, and policy analysts. Increasingly, a Master of Social Work (MSW) is becoming the entry-level degree for obtaining clinical, research, and administrative positions.

The Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) monitors the social work curriculum and accredits social work programs. Most MSW programs can be completed full-time in two years (students with a BSW can obtain their MSW in one year under the Advanced Standing track). The foundation curriculum (first-year) teaches students how to apply generalist social work practice knowledge and skills to individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. The advanced curriculum (second-year) prepares students professional social work practice. MSW students can also choose to specialize in either direct practice with individuals, families, and small groups (clinical) or community organization, organizational leadership, and policy practice (macro). The field education component enables students to apply their classroom knowledge (theory) into practice (internship) at agencies, hospitals, schools, government offices, higher education, and other nonprofit organizations.

It is important to select a program that offers courses and internships in your area(s) of interest. The majority of MSW programs offer the clinical or generalist concentration. If your academic interest is macro social work, apply to MSW programs that offer that concentration. It is important to do thorough research before you apply because you do not want to enroll in a program that only trains students for clinical practice if your interests are in macro practice. Larger programs (well-endowed private and public universities) often have the resources to offer macro social work course offerings. For those who are looking for MSW programs that offer well-established macro practice specializations, I recommend (in no specific order) Michigan, Columbia, UChicago,  Maryland-Baltimore, UPenn, Hunter College-CUNY, UNC-Chapel Hill, UI-Chicago, and Boston University.

Once you receive your MSW, all clinical social workers must apply for licensure in the state he or she wishes to work. Some states (such as Michigan) offer licensure to macro-practice social workers. If you want to mentor and supervise social work students in field placement assignments, then it is a good idea to apply for the clinical and/or macro licensure. However, keep in mind that many macro-practice social workers work in settings that do not require licensure. You will also need to take the ASWB social work exam (Master's, Clinical, or Advanced Generalist) and obtain 3000-4000 hours of professional supervision under a licensed social worker. Check your state for specific requirements.

If you have visited the U.S. News Graduate School rankings, the education section includes a ranking of social work programs. Keep in mind these rankings focus on the strength of doctoral programs, which tend to emphasize peer-reviewed research. If this is not your career focus, then look for CSWE-accredited MSW programs within your state or surrounding region. Remember: If you are not seeking a career in social work research and macro practice, then the prestige of the program does not matter. What is more important is gaining relevant, professional experience and connections. In addition, the CSWE-accredited MSW program should have a high success rate in graduating students who pass the licensure exams. This approach will also help you avoid excessive student loan debt.

A master's degree in social work generally requires one (advanced standing) to three years (regular admissions) to complete based on a student's enrollment status. Financing your education typically includes campus (work-study) employment, grants, scholarships, and loans. Some field placements offer a stipend. Most master's programs require three recommendation letters in the admissions process. Only a handful of programs (mostly on the West Coast) require GRE scores. High GPA and/or GRE scores can increase your chances of obtaining merit-based scholarship money. Before you apply, obtain volunteer and paid employment in social services, nonprofits, government, policy, and advocacy relevant to your interests so that you have a competitive application. Admissions committees also look for student leadership experience. Finally, write a clear, concise, and compelling statement of purpose that highlights your academic and professional experiences and explains why you want to pursue a career in social work. I hope these tips will aid you in the graduate school application process.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

CRISP: A Place At The Policy Table for Social Workers

Social work schools across the country need to establish policy practice concentrations as part of their curriculum so that social work students have the knowledge and skills to pursue careers in social welfare policy. Social workers can provide a humanistic/social justice perspective to policy development, which can lead to more effective social policies and programs that improve society. Policy practice is an emerging field that social work schools cannot ignore any longer. Check out this editorial by the president of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.
Congressional Social Work Caucus Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA13) recently threw her support behind the efforts of the producers of a film titled “A Place At The Table” which documents the struggle of millions of Americans to adequately feed themselves and their families.  Directed by Lori Silverbush, the film was an official selection of the Sundance film festival.  As Co-Chair of the Congressional Out-Of-Poverty Caucus, Rep. Lee has led the fight against poverty on the floor of the House of Representatives and in various congressional committees.  We need more social workers involved in influential policy deliberations.

The voices of social workers are critically needed during deliberations on social welfare policy on the Hill, in state and local government, and in various think tanks.  We need to be at the table when policies affecting children and families are being crafted.  We need to have input in discussions that lead to legislation and regulations in foster care, assistance for the elderly, criminal justice reform, and mental health services—to just name a few domains.  Social workers focus on outcomes that center more on the well-being of the people being served than the cost and benefits and efficiency.  While economics cannot be downplayed, it is often the sole focus of conventional policy makers.  Jared Bernstein, a social worker, operating within the highest realms of policy (he was Vice President Biden’s chief economist), has said that economists would benefit from being a social worker.

The field of policy analysis for social welfare emerged during the 1960s with the creation of the Office of Economic Development to oversee the federal government’s effort to administer social welfare programs designed to improve the poor’s condition in the United States.  What would become President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, led to the creation of the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Urban Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of social programs and provide research that would generate better outcomes.  Social workers have a creditable track record influencing social policy yet we need to have a stronger influence on policy going forward.
Most social workers are direct practitioners working hands-on with individuals, families and groups relying on evidence-based interventions that will empower and promote better functioning in society. Some pursue careers in administration equipped with the knowledge and skills to effectively manage public and private welfare institutions or create non-profit organizations of their own choosing.  A few get bitten by the policy bug and want to influence policy decisions that regulate social work practice and impact the populations we serve.

Yet many social work students who would like to work in policy find the career path rocky if not completely nonexistent and reluctantly shift their focus back to micro practice to pass the licensing exam in order to secure employment.  The profession needs to expand its efforts to create paths to policy jobs for social workers.  The good news is there are efforts under way.  The University of Michigan offers a joint Masters of Social Work/Masters of Public Policy program and Columbia University School of Social Work has initiated an accelerated policy track in its MSW program.  New York University’s Silver School of Social Work has opened a campus in Washington, DC.  Most high-level policy jobs will require a Ph.D.

CRISP is committed to expanding opportunities for social work students to engage the federal government.  We will be launching a series of student seminars on the Hill; the first will be held on September 9th focusing on federal legislation and the Social Work Reinvestment Act.  We will also be sponsoring briefings and hosting an October 29th symposium on children’s mental health.

The breadth of the social work experience can be a blessing or seem like a curse.  Social workers are needed at every level—micro, mezzo, and macro.  However, we cannot favor one area over the other.  We must expand recruitment and create opportunities for employment for the different paths.  There has always been tension between cause and function in social work.  I believe policy practice is the new and emerging field of social work and it is vital to the well-being of our society that we open doors for social work students.

Written by Dr. Charles E. Lewis Jr.
President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Affecting Change -- Social Workers in the Political Arena (7th Edition)

Affecting Change: Social Workers in the Political Arena (7th Edition), by Karen S. Haynes and James S. Mickelson, is a pragmatic, step-by-step guidebook that teaches social workers how to become agents of change. This is one of the premier textbooks in the growing specialization of political social work. It shows how the skills of social workers are also the skills of effective organizers, lobbyists, policy analysts, and elected officials. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote that invokes the importance of social justice. The assignments, case examples, summaries, and suggested readings demonstrate the importance of social workers' participation in the political arena. BSW and MSW social work students interested in political and social advocacy, lobbying, and policy practice would find this book a useful tool in learning the tools to effectively influence public policy. At 215 pages, this book includes a glossary of important terms that will help you promote socially-just policies with key stakeholders and understand how the political process works.
  1. All Social Work Is Political
  2. Social Work Values versus Politics
  3. The Emergence of a Social Work Polity
  4. The Debate
  5. Policy Models for Political Advocacy
  6. The Practitioner's Influence on Policy
  7. Influence through Lobbying
  8. Tools to Influence and Organize Others
  9. Monitoring the Bureaucracy
  10. The Campaign
  11. Social Workers as Politicians
  12. Your Time Is Now!
  13. Glossary of Legislative Terms

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NASW: Social Workers and Salaries

In 2012, the National Association for Social Workers (NASW) released salary guidelines for social workers. It contains recommended salary ranges for BSW and MSW holders based on years of experience. Although the salaries don't take into consideration cost of living (social workers living in the Midwestern, Southern, and rural areas may earn lower salaries than what is posted in the document), I am glad that NASW is addressing the salary issue now.  As I mentioned in previous posts on this blog, many social workers are underpaid, overworked, and under-appreciated. Earning competitive salaries will increase the prestige and awareness of the social work profession and ensure that social workers can afford the cost of living in their respective regions.

Updated (08/25/13): Social Work License Map offers a link about social work salaries by state. The list includes average salaries (broken down to average and hourly wage) by specialization (child, family, and school; medical and public health; mental health and substance abuse; and all other).
based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The link also includes this infographic salary guide.

  The Social Worker's Salary Guide
Brought to you by Social Work License Map

Thursday, July 18, 2013

AlterNet: Are Corporations Trying to Distract Us with Social Issues While They Take Control of Our Economy?

This AlterNet article is so timely (thank you!) that I wish people would wake up and realize that conservatives are taking advantage of controversial social issues such as gay marriage and reproductive rights to promote a conservative economic agenda that would widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

Politicians in the “liberal Kansas” school are increasingly outspoken on issues like reproductive choice and gay marriage, while at the same time continuing to promote their corporate economic agenda. Many, if not most, of them are so-called "centrist" Democrats from the Bill Clinton wing of the party. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat turned Republican, is also a prominent member of the “personally liberal, economically conservative” clique.

They’re not alone. I’ve known more than a few corporate leaders and Wall Street executives, and most of them were quite liberal on social issues too. It makes sense, when you think about it. When your goal is money, you’re not likely to care what people do with their bodies – as long you get their wallets.


Democrats campaigned on populist themes in 2012 campaign. But as soon as the election was over the party’s leaders returned to what Frank described in 2004 as “endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation, and the rest of it.”

Since his re-election, Barack Obama has proposed to cut Social Security, echoed the deficit hysteria of the right, continued to negotiate NAFTA-like trade deals in secret (hidden from Congress and the public but available to 600 “corporate advisors”), and continued to privatize the military/national security state. (He has also pursued the most aggressive anti-whistleblower presidential campaign in American history.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

115,000 People Have Already Signed NAACP Call For Civil Rights Charges Against George Zimmerman

According to BuzzFeed:

The NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, saw a massive, instant response to a petition Saturday night urging the Department of Justice to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman, who was cleared of all criminal charges in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The petition gained more than 115,000 signatures in about three hours, NAACP spokesman Eric Wingerter told BuzzFeed. The appeal asks Attorney General Eric Holder to “address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today” and press civil rights charges against Zimmerman, who shot an unarmed Martin last February in what he said was an act of self-defense.

“The Department of Justice has closely monitored the State of Florida’s prosecution of the case against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder since it began,” the petition reads. “The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin,” the appeal goes on. “We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation.”

The NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, posted the petition around 10:30 p.m., just a half an hour after the Florida jury reached its not-guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Within the first hour of its publication online, the petition garnered 57,600 signatures, according to Wingerter. In his own statement earlier Saturday evening, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said the group was “outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict.”

“We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed,” Jealous said.

Wingerter said the organization will keep its tech support team “up through the night” monitoring the high traffic on the website and petition.

The full text of the petition reads as follows:

Attorney General Eric Holder, The Department of Justice has closely monitored the State of Florida’s prosecution of the case against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder since it began. Today, with the acquittal of George Zimmerman, it is time for the Department of Justice to act.

The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin. We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation.

Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Paul Krugman Op-Ed: War on the Unemployed

Paul Krugman wrote an excellent editorial in the New York Times about the conservative attack on the unemployed. When I read his opinion, I wondered what happened to the importance of human conscience and dignity. Why must the poor be punished for being unemployed and underemployed in American society? Jobs do not appear out of thin air. The Great Recession is an example of that. Businesses should not receive kickbacks and tax breaks at the expenses of the poor, schools, seniors, and families. The very founding of this nation was not based on money, greed, and fear. Our founding fathers created a democratic nation based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Somehow, our elected officials have lost track of the meaning of these important words...

Is life too easy for the unemployed? You may not think so, and I certainly don’t think so. But that, remarkably, is what many and perhaps most Republicans believe. And they’re acting on that belief: there’s a nationwide movement under way to punish the unemployed, based on the proposition that we can cure unemployment by making the jobless even more miserable.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: Multicultural Student Services on Campus (2011)

Multicultural Student Services on Campus (2011), edited by Dafina Lazarus Stewart, is a comprehensive resource for graduate students and new professionals in multicultural student services in higher education. It explores contemporary issues of multicultural student services and its historical development. It focuses on the three most common aspects of multicultural student services in higher education: race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and religious/spiritual identity. It examines how institutional context (liberal arts colleges, public universities, community colleges, and minority-serving institutions) influences the design and practice of multicutural student services. Lastly, it discusses ways in which practitioners in other units and divisions within colleges and universities can collaborate and advocate for stronger multicultural student services.

Published by ACPA: College Student Educators International, this book is an important reference for student affairs professionals who need to understand the history, breadth, depth, and future of multicultural student services. Senior-level administrators, who have a desire to make socially-responsible decisions that transform college campuses into democratic and multicultural communities, should also consider this reference as a starting point for ideas and solutions. Since I study diversity and social justice in higher education, this book has become an invaluable resource for enhancing my awareness and knowledge of pertinent issues in multicultural affairs. Dafina Lazarus Stewart is an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Bowling Green State University.

The book is divided into four sections with 19 chapters:
  1. History and Evolution of Multicultural Student Services
  2. Multicultural Student Services Affirming and Integrating Diversity
  3. Diverse Contexts, Similar Goals (Academic and Student Affairs)
  4. Building Bridges (Collaborations and Multicultural Competence)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Getting your MSW - 2nd Edition (2013)

Getting Your MSW: How to Survive and Thrive in a Social Work Program - 2nd Edition (2013), by Karen Sowers (University of Tennesse-Knoxville) and Bruce Thyer (Florida State University), is a comprehensive survival guidebook published by Lyceum Books for prospective and current students interested in graduate social work (MSW) programs. This guidebook helps orient new students to the social work profession, the MSW admissions process, the organization and structure of social work education, state licensure requirements, and a listing of professional social work organizations in the United States. This edition has four new features:
  • Extended table of contents for quick and easy reference
  • Employment resources for today's economic climate (including job search strategies)
  • Information on the use and relevance of technology in social work education
  • Content on MSW  programs and field work opportunities
Like the previous edition, this book provides a clear and concise overview of MSW social work programs. It continues to be a recommended reference for social workers in the early stages of their career. I enjoyed the chapter about the MSW curriculum and field education, which goes into detail on the Council on Social Work and a basic overview of the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). Students will thrive much better in graduate school if they have a solid understanding of the MSW curriculum.

Unfortunately, the guidebook is biased towards clinical social work. It does not provide adequate resources for social work students who want to pursue careers in macro practice (organizations, communities, and public policy). There is an appendix section on how to earn the LCSW in Florida. While this process is helpful for students in Florida, other students would be wise to look up license requirements in their state of employment (such as Social Work License Map). Your state board of social work would also provide application materials and instructions for licensure. Overall, this is a wonderful reference to keep for graduate school. Students may have to look to other books for macro social work-specific employment information and professional organizations. I was very disappointed that the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) was not mentioned in the appendix of professional social work organizations.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Political Social Worker's Overview of the 2012 Rothman Report at Hunter College

Rachel West, MSW, LMSW, founder and author of the Political Social Worker, attended the Macro in a Micro World: What the 2012 Rothman Report Means for Social Change Hopefulness conference at the Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work in New York City. She provided an excellent overview of the conference. West stated: 

"The purpose of the event was to gather macro social workers from around the United States to discuss the Rothman Report and to come up with solutions to the problems highlighted in the report. If you haven’t you can read the report here." 

She opens her blog post with a quote by a renowned social work professor, Dr. John Rothman (2013): “I wanted to be Jane Addams but I found myself in the world of Mary Richmond.” This quote is symbolic because the social work profession often neglects (and even ostracizes) macro social work. It is deeply rooted in the Jane Addams settlement house movement, which focused on social statistics, community organizing, and social policy). Unfortunately, the general public and prospective students usually perceive social work as clinical (mental health), child welfare, or case management. This perspective threatens the future of macro social work. Social workers have a responsibility to advocate for economic and social justice so that the clients we serve can improve their circumstances.

On my blog, I critically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the social work profession. One of the weaknesses I highlighted was the lack of professional focus and support for macro social work practice. Meanwhile, learn how social workers can get more politically involved by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Video of the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Freedom Walk in Detroit

I found a YouTube video of the 2013 Detroit Freedom March. Enjoy!

On June 22, 2013, thousands attended "Take a Step" in the 50th anniversary march in honor of the original Walk to Freedom/Freedom Walk led in Detroit by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On that day 50 years ago, in what is considered to be the original debut of his now-famous "I Have a Dream Speech," King told tens of thousands of people that it was time for the government and society to get serious about providing opportunities and parity in employment, education, housing and the overall quality of life for persons of color. Sponsored by UAW-Ford and the Detroit Branch NAACP, this year's walk serves as a reminder of that legacy and its pivotal role in the city's transition from one of isolation to inclusion. But it also is a chance for those who recognize the need for further progress to join in that call.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Walk on Woodward Avenue

Congratulations, Detroit, for making the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Walk on Woodward Avenue a major success! I loved the huge turnout! It was such a beautiful day! The struggle for  jobs and freedom continues. I felt so proud to be an American.


When you talk with people who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Detroit's "Walk to Freedom" 50 years ago, they will speak about the spirit of pride, unity, purpose and hope that permeated the crowd of 125,000 as they made their way through Detroit.
The march, held June 23, 1963, was the largest-ever civil rights demonstration in the country at that time. It was also the first time King delivered a version of his now-famous I Have A Dream speech.
On Saturday, the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the United Auto Workers and numerous other religious, civic and community organizations will commemorate the march.
"While we celebrate the dream and the legacy of Dr. King, we are compelled to work to make that dream a reality," said Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP branch. "This is more than a march; it's a call to action."
Saturday's demonstration lands at the apex of a critical moment in Detroit history. As the city teeters on the verge of bankruptcy and uncertainty, reigniting a spirit of unity, pride and purpose is crucial, march organizers have said.
"It's not solely because there's an emergency manager in Detroit; it's not solely because this state has become a right-to-work state or because we are having financial issues all over the state of Michigan, including in Detroit. It's because of all of those issues, but it's mostly because the work of Dr. King is not finished," Anthony said. "We've made a great deal of strides since Dr. King walked down Woodward. But we cannot afford to rest. We're doing this to remind everyone that there is still work to be done."
The Detroit march preceeded the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" in August 1963. A national march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the demonstration will be held Aug. 28 in Washington.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reflections on Second Semester in Higher Education Master's Program

I am officially on summer break from graduate school. I earned a 4.0 GPA for the winter semester (woo-hoo!). This was a very stressful semester (one of my classes alone assigned nearly 300 pages of reading per week!), but I am thrilled with the progress I have made in the higher education master's program. I also enrolled in a second doctoral course about the sociology of race, ethnicity and immigration. Despite my initial concerns in the first month, I was encouraged to write critical analyses of social theories and apply them to historical and contemporary issues. This course also demonstrated that I have the preparation to apply to doctoral programs in the future. I have learned so much about myself and have a finer grasp of my academic and professional interests. I know that I want to eventually pursue a career in higher education administration and policy. I also like studying social problems and proposing socially-just policy recommendations. Currently, my academic interests are access and equity, diversity in higher education, social justice education, student retention, and community engagement. I am leaning towards pursuing a career in academic and educational affairs (the curricular component in higher education). Meanwhile, I have (less than) four months of freedom to catch up on book reviews, reflect on my own personal development, and pursue my hobbies in this gorgeous warm weather. It is my time to  relax at my own pace. I will resume graduate school in September 2013.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Michigan's black unemployment rate highest in U.S.

I received this update from the Michigan League for Public Policy.
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan workers were hit hard by the Great Recession but the state’s African American workers continue to suffer a far higher unemployment rate, a new Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief finds, with Michigan’s black unemployment rate the highest among the 24 states where it can be measured.

EPI researchers Douglas Hall and Mary Gable find that the African American unemployment rate in Michigan reached 18.7 percent—nearly one in five of the state’s black workers—in the fourth quarter of 2012, about two-and-a-half times that of the white unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.
You can read the full report here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flyer: Influencing Social Policy: Positioning Social Work Graduates for Policy Careers

In December 2012, the Social Work Policy Institute published this flyer, Influencing Social Policy: Positioning Social Work Graduates for Policy Careers. I highly recommend graduate students who plan to pursue a policy career to save and read this conversation brief. Participants included both social workers and non-social workers who serve in key policy positions at the national, state and local levels, social work faculty, and recent social work graduates pursuing policy positions.
Professional social workers have long pursued careers specifically focused on influencing social policy. These policy practice positions include working as lobbyists, policy and program analysts, organizers, and advocates. Such positions can be found within the executive and legislative branches of government, with provider and professional organizations, foundations, think tanks and public interest advocacy groups at the national, state and local levels. The current economic, social and political climates provide a ripe environment for promoting social work expertise in these positions. To meet this demand it is imperative that there be on-going dialogue between social work educators who prepare students for policy practice and policy practitioners, especially those who hire entry-level policy staff.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

HuffPost: Elizabeth Warren: Student Loans Should Have Same Rate Big Banks Get

Bravo for Senator Warren for raising awareness about link between the growing student loan crisis and the highly-subsidized big banking system. It is ironic that corporations have more flexibility with receiving loans from the Federal Reserve than the average consumer. Although there is a slim chance that her bill will pass, it is a wake-up call to Americans that the era of record-profiting big banks (at the expense of the livelihoods of the poor and the middle-class) will end soon.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled her first bill Wednesday, designed to set student loan interest rates at the same level the Federal Reserve offers to big banks.

With some student loan rates set to double on July 1 -- from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent -- Warren's bill would reduce student loan interest rates to 0.75 percent, opening the Fed's discount window to students.

"Every single day, this country invests in big banks by lending them money at near-zero rates," Warren told The Huffington Post. "We should make the same kind of investment lending money to students, who are trying to get an education."

The freshman senator said she plans to mobilize students -- those most affected by student loans -- to help get the bill through the Senate. "This is about their lives and if they are active in this fight, we can make this change," Warren said.

The Fed justifies loaning money essentially for free to major banks so they can maintain liquidity during emergencies. But Warren noted that student loan debt also affects the economy. Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, reported by Washington Post's Wonkblog, found that the amount of student loan debt of Americans under the age of 25 has doubled in less than a decade, from $10,649 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012. Along with this increase in student debt comes a decrease in the likelihood someone will take out an auto loan or a home mortgage. That burden is a drag on the economy.

Warren pointed to the GI Bill and National Defense Education Act loans, which funded her education. "It wasn't just soldiers that got the education, it was the whole economy that benefitted from that investment," Warren said. "Why not give students a break? Why not let them in on the same great deal that the big banks get?"

According to the Project on Student Debt, college students who graduated in 2011 owed more than $26,000 in student loans, which Warren said is, "crushing our young."

Warren ran for Senate promising to fight against an economic system she described as "rigged" in favor of big business. She said her legislation is intended to raise questions about why banks get a dramatically subsidized loan rate and what can be done to reduce debt burdens for students and consumers. The simple answer -- that the Fed could subsidize students instead of banks -- is an uncomfortable one and goes to a core inequality at the heart of the financial system.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Press Release: African American Leaders Band Together to Oppose Senate Immigration Bill

I was wondering when would black leaders be courageous enough to announce their opposition to the contentious immigration reform issue. I wholeheartedly agree with their policy stance. From the Sacramento Bee:

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday morning, April 24 at 9am, the African American Leadership Council will host a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to oppose the Senate Gang of Eight's 844-page plus, immigration bill.  During the conference, the Council will call on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), to protect black labor by opposing amnesty and halting efforts to double legal immigration levels, as required under the bill. 

Many black leaders have recognized the harm caused by large increases in immigration as the Senate bill entails.  As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recently reported, illegal immigration to the United States in recent decades has "depress[ed] both wages and employment rates for low-skilled American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are black men."   

"The Senate Gang of Eight's immigration bill is not only impractical, but immoral," said Frank Morris, Council leader, and former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.  "Increasing immigration levels through amnesty and new visa programs, particularly at the low-skilled level, will flood the labor market with millions more people, leading to higher unemployment, more poverty, and a lower standard of living for many in the black community."  Blacks have an unemployment rate nearly twice that of the national average.  The Senate's immigration plan to drastically increase the immigrant work force will continue to keep that number high. 

Coalition Leaders Urge the Congressional Black Caucus to:
  • Recognize the devastating impact that a legalization plan would have on low-skilled labor, particularly in the black community;
  • Remember its duty to protect black constituents by acknowledging the damaging impact mass immigration has on low-skilled workers.
"With unemployment at 7.6% this is preposterous," said Coalition member Charles Butler.  "I think most everyone can agree on the need to support working and middle-class citizens during a depressed economy.  This bill would provide green cards and residency benefits to illegal aliens when many Americans are hurting the most.  What makes sense is for America's jobs to be reserved for people who are legally entitled to compete for them."

Read more here:

Read more here:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sign the petition: Florida State Attorney Jerry Hill, Drop charges against Kiera Wilmot

If you have been following the Trayvon Martin murder case, then this news will astound you. Racial injustice has reoccurred in Florida. A high school student, Kiera Wilmot (who is a black female), was expelled from her school district and faces two felony charges as an adult because her science experiment went awry (minor explosion that caused no damage). Science experiments can often malfunction in school. The most common punishment is generally detention or suspension. These criminal charges are not only extreme but also sends a chilly message to underrepresented minorities that a science career is not an option for them. Tell the Florida Attorney General that the state should re-examine its zero-tolerance school policies and stop making unjustified criminal examples out of black children. Sign and share this petition with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Kiera Wilmot has been described as an exemplary student and a wonderful young woman. Why is it then that an experiment gone wrong is being dealt with by the police and school as a felony offense? According to the Miami Times:

"7 a.m. on Monday, the 16 year-old mixed some common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle on the grounds of Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida. The reaction caused a small explosion that caused the top to pop up and produced some smoke. No one was hurt and no damage was caused."

The principal has said that that he doesn't believe she had any malicious intentions. Yet she now faces two felony charges as an adult. These include making, possessing or discharging a destructive device and with possessing or discharging weapons on school grounds! 

I've learned that the charges have not yet been filed and this means that Florida State Attorney Jerry Hill and Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty have an opportunity to the right thing, use common sense, and drop these charges against Kiera. 

Please sign this petition to challenge any decision to so drastically charge this young woman for something that was a simple mistake. Her life should not be turned upside down, her future crushed, because someone wants to make a statement. There was no criminal activity here - she does not deserve to be punished like this. Help Kiera find real justice!

[Update #1]: Writing at BlackAmericaWeb, Gregory Kane argues that black parents of teens should steer clear of Florida, after lawmakers allowed the arrest and expulsion of Kiera Wilmot over a science experiment. The gross miscarriage of justice represents business as usual when it comes to laws and black youth.

[Update #2] The lawyer for the teenager arrested this week for a science experiment is working to prevent felony charges from being filed, according to Business Insider's Science page. Honor student Kiera Wilmot was arrested for playing with chemicals on school grounds Monday, April 29.

[Update #3] The petition was a success! After over 195,500 signatures, the Florida Attorney General decided not to charge Kiera Wilmot. The Orlando Sentinel provides more details.