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This Essay calls upon the civil rights and education justice communities to expand their vision of school discipline law and policy reform to include the often ignored, yet deeply impacted lives of parents, caregivers, and families. Deploying what critical race theorists define as storytelling or counternarratives, we share Nyla’s story to bring forward an all too common deployment of education laws—flown under a banner of safety, order, maintenance, and well-being of school communities—that reinforce anti-Black racism. In particular, we aim to elevate how embedded and reinforced racism in education law and policy, whether conscious, visble, or explicit, harms Black caregivers and families who seek justice for their children by contesting oppressive, and at times illegal, health-harming conditions in schools. We argue that in advancing a more inclusive antiracist movement for education justice—one that centers advocacy against the breadth of injuries that students and caregivers who are punished, excluded, and policed by school officials face—we can move towards a more transformative agenda for education. While we acknowledge the endemic nature of racism in the U.S. educational system and beyong, we do not give up hope for Nyla and others and remain vigilant in our praxis to name and challenge the complex array of anti-Black practices, policies, and norms that maintain and rationalize white power and privilege.

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UCLA Law Review Discourse