Two million young people in the United States that have emotional or behavioral disabilities. 60% of those students are likely to drop out of school. African American students over 3 1⁄2 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their White peers.
These are sobering facts, but there is good news. Many people and organizations from community organizers, to national associations of mental health professionals, to educators are working to change the way schools approach discipline and teaching in order to improve outcomes for all students. And even better, those folks now have a collection of new media resources from the Who Cares About Kelsey? project to help them in their efforts.
A few months ago we introduced you toWho Cares About Kelsey?, the project from Dan Habib (creator of Including Samuel). The documentary features Kelsey Carroll. Kelsey lived with homelessness, self-mutilation, abuse and ADHD. She was a likely high school dropout — until she encountered an education revolution that’s about empowering, not overpowering, teens with emotional and behavioral disabilities. The overall project also includes nine mini-films documenting the lives of kids with emotional and behavioral disabilities and shows innovative educational approaches that help these students to succeed.
In mid-October I facilitated a strategy summit where two dozen leaders in educational justice, mental health, substance abuse and educational reform worked together to hone the outreach and engagement strategy for the film.
Together with Working Films, Dan had laid excellent groundwork for the summit. We came into the meeting with a draft outreach and engagement plan that was crafted through input from several of the organizations that attended the meeting and their allies. Through small group breakout sessions, dialogue and interactive exercises we generated a list of primary objectives for the campaign, honed the list of target audiences, and created key strategies for the campaign that will advance the specific objectives.
Importantly these strategies are tied to the existing work of the organizations in attendance. For example, the folks in the room that do policy advocacy work at the national and state level will be the organizations that Dan works with to pursue our legislative advocacy strategies for the film project. This includes possibly producing one additional short form piece of media highlighting alternative, positive approaches to school discipline that could be used by these groups in constituent meetings or policy briefings along with accompanying data.
All of us that were in the room together for the WCAK meeting left energized and ready to collaborate. As Dan pursues collaboration with them individually and as a group we will track the impact of the WCAK project media in schools and communities across the country. Look for another update on the project in 2013 right here. In the meantime check out where WCAK is screening or watch short videos from the project at www.whocaresaboutkelsey.com