According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over half of the 25.4 million refugees worldwide are children under the age of 18. Given the instability and precariousness that displaced persons may experience, the provision of education for these children is of significant concern. Interaction between the culture of the host society and the cultures of immigrants, including experiences related to education, is a key aspect of transitioning to a new national environment. These interactions may be particularly salient for displaced populations, considering the particular circumstances and life trajectories that are characteristic of refugees and generally not shared by other immigrant groups. Empirical research on refugee children’s education in resettlement countries highlights the significance of acculturative processes for experiences and outcomes of schooling, as well as the importance of educational settings in facilitating cultural interaction—that is, the interlocking and complementary nature of acculturation and education. Education and cultural navigation are linked in significant ways, such that even as education facilitates the cultural exposure and integration of newcomer individuals to a receiving society, acculturation itself is associated with adaptation to the school context and academic experiences. In other words, educational and acculturative processes can facilitate and reinforce each other. Additional research that examines more specifically processes of cultural navigation by refugee children in particular can further illuminate the factors that shape their experience of education in resettlement contexts.
Jieun Sung and Rachel Wahl
Shridevi Rao, Nadya Pancsofar, and Sarah Monaco
A rich literature on family-professional collaboration with families and caregivers of children and youth with disabilities has developed in the United States. This literature identifies key barriers that impede family-professional relationships including deficit-based perceptions of families and children with disabilities, narrow definitions of “family” that limit the participation of some members such as fathers or grandparents, and historical biases that constrain the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families. Principles for building collaborative relationships with families include honoring the strengths of the family, presuming competence in the child and the family, valuing broad definitions of “family,” and understanding the ecology of family routines and rituals. Practices that help facilitate family-professional relationships are building reciprocal partnerships with various caregivers in the family including fathers as well as extended family members, adopting a posture of cultural reciprocity, using a variety of modes of communication with families, and involving families in all aspects of the special education process such as assessment, planning, prioritizing of skills, and identification of interventions. Pivotal moments in the family’s journey through their child’s schooling, including early intervention and transition to post-school environments, provide opportunities to build and strengthen family-professional relationships. Each of these moments has the potential to involve families in a variety of processes including assessment, planning, and articulating the goals and vision for their child/youth. A focus on strengths, collaborative partnerships, and family agency and voice is at the core of strong family-professional relationships.
Elizabeth J. Meyer
The field of bullying research initially paid minimal attention to the influences of gender role expectations (masculinity, femininity, and gender role conformity), as well as heteronormativity, cisnormativity, homophobia, and transphobia in understanding the phenomenon. This has shifted since the late 2000s, when more research emerged that analyzes gender as an influential factor for understanding bullying dynamics in schools. More recent studies have focused on LGBTQ youth, issues of disability, and racialized identities, as well as the impacts of online interactions. When examining gender and bullying, it is important to also examine related forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, dating violence, and other forms of sexual and violent assault such as transphobic violence and murder. In order to more effectively support schools and professionals working to reduce bullying, there must be a deeper understanding of what is currently known about gender and bullying, what works to reduce it in schools, and what still needs more attention in the research literature.
In the United States, gender and health in adolescence are sites of contestation and conflict marked by both hyperrepresentations and absences. Youth who are multiply marginalized by interlocking systems of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and so on are overrepresented in cultural and policy domains as “at risk” for negative health outcomes. At the same time, absences surrounding young people’s complex health needs and experiences abound in schools, healthcare settings, families, and the media. For instance, debates around sex education and teen pregnancy prevention have dominated the policy landscape for decades, with no signs of receding any time soon. Missing from these debates has been an analysis of how the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality structure the health outcomes and educational experiences of diverse youth. Likewise, queer, transgender, and gender-expansive youth are overrepresented in discussions about bullying to the detriment of the social structural factors that produce poor mental health outcomes. Understanding how gender and health play out in the lives of adolescents, as well as at the level of social institutions and structures, is central to teasing out the dynamics of gender, health, and social inequalities.
The education of children and young people with disabilities and the appropriate form this should take is an issue with which countries across the world are grappling. This challenge has not been assisted by the diverse interpretations of “inclusion” within and between States. The international community, in the form of the United Nations (UN), its associated treaty bodies, and its related agencies have taken on an increasingly critical role in working with countries to develop some kind of global consensus on how inclusion should be defined, its core features, and what it should look like in practice. The conclusions of discussions on these issues have emerged in the form of declarations, treaties, general comments, and guidelines, which countries across the world are expected to adhere to, to varying extents. Together, these constitute a set of international policies and benchmarks on inclusion in an educational context, informing and shaping contemporary national policy and practice. At its core is the underlying principle that children and young people with disabilities have a fundamental right to education without discrimination. Examination of international discourse on inclusion indicates that its meaning, form, and content has become more refined, with increasing emphasis being placed on the quality of inclusive practice as opposed to merely questioning its merits.
Homelessness, with poverty and housing inaccessibility as its underlying structural drivers, has an enduring presence in all Western nations. While governments traditionally focus on supporting adults, families, and youth out of homelessness, increasingly attention is being turned to the significant number of children under 18 years who experience homelessness alone without an accompanying parent or guardian. Unaccompanied children commonly leave home early against the backdrop of family conflict and breakdown, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect. They may sleep rough without shelter, couch-surf between extended family members, friends, and acquaintances, and access those youth refuges that will accommodate them. Without access to the consistent care of a parent or guardian, unaccompanied homeless children experience unique personal, systemic, and structural vulnerabilities that, without adequate developmentally appropriate intervention, will result in a range of physical, psychological, social, and educational harms. Schools, as the sole universal statutory service for children, can be central in the immediate safeguarding of children and their referral to services for additional supports. Schools can also offer a pathway into lifelong learning, employment, and community connectedness that is crucial to reducing poverty and enabling wellbeing and social inclusion. As such, schools have a key role to play in responding to unaccompanied homeless children by ensuring equitable access to education and engaging with the international shift toward child and youth homelessness prevention and early intervention. Research consistently suggests school-based programs are key to identifying children at risk, preventing homelessness, and improving learning outcomes for those who do experience homelessness. At a minimum, schools can intervene in educational harms, such as low attainment and early school leaving, that are associated with high mobility, a lack of support, cumulative trauma, and stigma. Addressing administrative and practical barriers to homeless children’s school access and attendance, implementing trauma-informed practice, and increasing awareness of homelessness are essential starting points. Further, the trend of articulating child wellbeing as a shared, cross-sector goal has increasingly created opportunities for schools, in collaboration with social services, to become innovative homelessness prevention and early intervention hubs that strengthen children’s outcomes.