Last Saturday, Duke professor Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards joined Wake County Board of Education member Keith Sutton on the April 24th airing of Education Matters. The conversation centered around a particularly troubling problem in North Carolina, and indeed nationwide: African American students get suspended more frequently, and for longer periods of time, than their peers. Even more alarming is that the discipline disparity starts as early as pre-kindergarten.
While the problem is well documented, more resources are required to start tackling the discipline disparity in a meaningful way. Dr. Bentley-Edwards reminded viewers that the underlying problem is one of structural racism, saying “if your practices have a disparate impact, and you do nothing about it, then that’s where you’re supporting some institutional racism.” She highlighted the importance of training teachers to properly deal with children who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).
In fact, schools with behavioral specialists or dedicated psychologists have fewer suspensions because they can train teachers how to properly deal with students who misbehave – and it doesn’t usually entail sending them home where they lose additional instruction time and fall further behind.
As part of Policy Bridge’s efforts to continuing highlighting examples of engaged scholarship, we’ve been speaking with several professors around campus who have engaged with policy actors frequently in their work. One of these professors is Dr. Heather Stapleton, the Dan and Bunny Gabel Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Environmental Management at the Nicholas School for Environment. She is frequently asked to be an expert witness and advise lawmakers on matters relevant to her research on contaminants.
We asked Professor Stapleton what encourages the frequency of her engagement with policymakers. She noted that policymakers and their teams usually initiate their conversations with her research team. Part of this enthusiasm is credited to the niche of Dr. Stapleton’s research area. Her current research projects explore the routes of human exposure to flame retardant chemicals and examine the way these compounds are photodegraded and metabolized using mass spectrometry to identify breakdown products/metabolites. To note, Dr. Stapleton’s lab is one of the only labs in the world that does this kind of work.
For researchers performing studies in distinctive subject areas, her engagement is a great example of how one can be found by government agencies through published research. When lawmakers are interested in receiving expert testimony on the risk of exposure and toxicity to chemical contaminants in home materials, Professor Stapleton is a well-known resource. Due to this credibility, she has engaged across multiple states and at the federal level to respond to testimony requests from state governing body and federal agencies.
When providing expertise to governing bodies, Stapleton did advise us that misinformation is common when research experts and industry officials are not in the room at the same time. This misinformation can contribute to confusion among legislators and contribute to further division over scientific evidence on regulation matters. When this occurrence is coupled with partisan division on some regulatory issues, providing scientific testimony as a non-partisan outside expert can be difficult.
Stapleton most recently testified at the North Carolina General Assembly in May.
To read a record of her past engagement with Congress, see this post on her 2012 Senate Committee testimony on the Nicholas School’s News blog.
Sanford Professor of Public Policy Phil Napoli will be presenting the findings of his latest paper in Washington, D.C. this September. In addition to presenting at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference on September 9th, Napoli will also present his paper on Capitol Hill earlier in the week.
His paper was one of the four selected conference papers to be presented at the congressional briefing on capitol hill.
In his latest paper, Napoli poses the question “what if more speech is no longer the solution.” He discusses the ways in which changes in the media environment are undermining the notion of counterspeech (i.e., that the solution to bad/false speech is simply more speech). Professor Napoli’s research focuses on media institutions and media regulation and policy. He has provided formal and informal expert testimony on these topics to government bodies such as the U.S. Senate, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Congressional Research Service.
To learn more about Professor Napoli’s research and policy expertise, visit his Sanford and Scholars@Duke pages.