By Rodney Brown
“We can send people to the moon, but we can’t repair a broken child. There’s something wrong if we believe that,” Dr. Joy DeGruy, a nationally and internationally renowned researcher, educator, author and presenter, stated.
Rochester City School District’s (RCSD) Youth and Family Services Department recently invited DeGruy to conduct a three-day workshop for RCSD staff and administration titled, “The Relationship Model of Educational Intervention.”
The superintendent’s staff, members of the Board of Education, The Parent Advisory Council, The Bilingual Council, The Community Task Force, and the union’s leadership group attended the program.
According to DeGruy, the workshops are based on creating culturally responsive and appropriate models that are inclusive, and that include folks who have been historically, traditionally, and disproportionately, left out.
As a result, she said, the models address what can be done to promote change, and equality, in school systems.
“The problems are deeply and historically entrenched, starting with the United States Constitution,” DeGruy stated. “A whole group of people were considered three-fifths human, so it was defective from the start. They’re the contradictions we’ve lived with that are not working anymore, because of change. When there’s a preponderance of evidence you can no longer deny, it causes a paradigm shift, and you never return. There’s a preponderance of evidence on the issues surrounding education, such as the intersection of racism, and structural inequalities. It’s not like people don’t know. We have rooms full with data from years of research.”
According to DeGruy’s model, the “village,” which includes both family and community, it is the most important component the district must develop, in order to revive and maintain a provision of cultural continuity, and ecological health within the student.
The model recognizes family as the key interpersonal connection which can immediately change the academic outlook, and behavior, of a troubled student, DeGruy stated.
She said the model has developed the measure through its belief that, “All human interaction, and thus change, occurs at the level of the ‘relationship,’ through the agency of the individual, the family, and the village.”
“We want to know why Johnny can’t read?” she asked. “What does Serial Force Displacement (SFD) have to do with why Johnny can’t read? It started with segregation. And then you had redlining, and, after that, urban renewal, and federal sanctions, and, finally, gentrification. Research from those years tells us, when people are serially interrupted, it produces interpersonal and structural violence. We want to say this has nothing to do with this, and it has everything to do with this.”
According to Jerome Underwood, RCSD’s senior director of Youth and Family Services, he was met with significant resistance from key stakeholders during his efforts to bring DeGruy to Rochester.
But, Underwood said, the event presented a rare opportunity to convene those stakeholders, who also have key roles in the everyday management of the district, in the same place, at the same time.
“If Dr. DeGruy’s model is not the Holy Grail, it’s the wood that will hold up the Holy Grail,” he stated.
According to Underwood, he believes DeGruy’s relationship model may be the answer to increasing student achievement, as well as decreasing high rates of suspensions.
He said he first heard her speak in 2014 at a three-day seminar in the Rochester Equal Opportunity Center (REOC).
“In our district, 90 percent of the students are children of color, and 9.8 percent are Caucasian,” Underwood stated. “However, our district is a mono-cultured run district. Seventy-eight percent of our teachers are Caucasian, and that’s how we’re teaching, and doing everything. It will be almost impossible to educate the students, if you don’t have a relationship with them. We have to become culturally responsive to the students we were hired to educate.”
Throughout the course of the workshop, DeGruy fielded questions like, “How will we know if the relationship model is working?” and, “How do you measure its effectiveness?”
She responded by saying the results will be in the data, and that the relationships will tell you it’s working.
According to DeGruy, the relationship model uses interdisciplinary approaches that require you to participate as a person, as well as an instrument.
“It requires you – and not everybody is ready to do it,” she stated. “But, what I do, is take who is, and start there. Nothing can be worse than what’s going on. We have evidence-based models that are empirical. The problem is when they come up against the structure. If you have unions, and rules, and laws that say you don’t have to, the person who’s responsible, doesn’t feel accountable. This way of doing things is not working for a huge population of people. We know it’s not working, so why keep doing it?”
Currently, DeGruy holds a bachelor of science degree in communications, two master’s degrees in social work and clinical psychology, and a Ph.D. in social work research.
She’s also the author of the book, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing,” which she said addresses the residual impact of trauma on African descendants in the Americas.
Visit http://joydegruy.com/ for additional information regarding the program.