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The school-to-prison pipeline is a sad reality for students of color in schools in the United States. It is not a random occurrence, but a systematic tool of systemic oppression, one that has deep roots in the racial history of this country and encourages the disproportionate tracking and incarceration of Black and Brown children and adults. Educators can provide a great deal of protection for their students through their beliefs and practice. K–12 school teachers in particular have tremendous opportunity to disrupt the pipeline by acknowledging its existence, taking action to interrogate their role in tracking and push-out policies, and equipping their students with the tools necessary to navigate oppressive systems as well as their own racial stress and trauma.

The Preparing Educators to Address Racial Literacy and Stress (PEARLS) project equips teachers and their students with the tools needed to navigate and resolve racial stress in and outside of the classroom. The PEARLS project will provide teachers with the opportunity to acknowledge how their racial stress affects their classroom environments in a safe and supportive space. Then, using racial literacy-based curriculum and teaching materials, educators are supported as they engage in challenging conversations about race and racial interactions with their students. Through the PEARLS project, these educators will be able to increase their racial literacy, develop the skills necessary to have meaningful racial conversations with their students, incorporate racial literacy into their existing curriculum, and create a truly inclusive and caring classroom for all of their students and, specifically, their students of color.

Some of the questions guiding the PEARLS project are:

1) What are K–12 teachers’ beliefs about teaching race-related materials in a classroom setting?
2) How do racial literacy curriculum and in-class support affect K–12 teachers’ perceptions of students of color?
3) In what ways does a racial literacy-focused intervention change K–12 teachers’ practices in ways that disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline for students of color?
4) How should researchers develop and share racial literacy classroom materials with K–12 teachers in an effort to create more equitable school environments and greater social and academic opportunities for historically marginalized students of color?