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​Funded by the Laidlaw Foundation, DJNO’s Education Project aims to highlight the experiences of Black, Indigenous, racialized and newcomer disabled students with both the education system and the school-to-prison-nexus. Project facilitators continue to host consultations with community members, caregivers, organizations and most importantly – students. Our central goal is empowering, amplifying and equipping disabled youth by giving them the tools to identify and address systemic ableism within the education system.

The project ultimately aims to develop a toolkit to be made accessible to disabled youth/families across Ontario. This toolkit will serve as a source for self-guided education and offer a list of resources to disabled youth facing possible arrests by police, suspensions and expulsions from school, or simply struggling to receive the support they need. The toolkit will be accessible (in both online and physical capacities) by the end of March 2024, alongside a final report with our findings.


Currently, the Education Project has completed research for their project literature review, alongside four surveys which explore youth criminalization and the perpetuation of the school-to-prison pipeline by education institutions. Specifically, these surveys focus on the impacts of suspensions, expulsions, exclusions, restraints and seclusions. Surveys have been co-developed alongside community organizations and the caregivers of Black, racialized, newcomer and disabled youth. They will be made available to families in the GTHA physically and virtually and accessible in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Arabic, Somali and Urdu. 

Throughout the project, coordinators have also engaged in ongoing casework with local families. Multiple meetings have also occurred with caregivers, discussing their needs and requests for the next steps. These include in-school meetings with the administration about the unjust criminalization of their children at school.
With this, DJNO supported and co-facilitated the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion’s first annual “Hamilton Youth Summit for Community Building” in March 2023 – a conference for your engagement that brought together over 80 Black, racialized and disabled youth across Hamilton.

Project Coordinators have also collaborated with 541 Eatery & Exchange to facilitate five student focus groups, which each hosted between 6 to 12 participants thus far, all aged from 9 - 13 years old (all of whom are disabled, racialized and have experienced suspensions, expulsions, seclusions exclusions and/or restraints). The team will conduct similar sessions with parents and high school students throughout the fall of 2023.

In addition, the team has been conducting and scheduling interviews with racialized and disabled education workers.

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Project Goals


  • Consulting with and/or interviewing education workers, disability organizations, caregivers and disabled youth OR creating alternative spaces for disabled people to express their needs around safety and well-being in the education system

  • Empowering disabled communities to address systemic ableism within education and criminal justice systems, with a specific focus on Black and racialized people with disabilities

  • Working in partnership with disability-led/anti-racist organizations and educational institutions to host consultation/focus group sessions and distribute online surveys

  • Hosting focus group meetings with local community organizations to learn about their respective resources and the services they offer to disabled youth

  • Enhancing community building and outreach skills for disabled youth

  • Supporting youth and caregivers in advocacy meetings in order to further understand the nature of systemic barriers within the education system

  • Evaluating issues experienced by disabled youth in education, including but not limited to: isolation, lack of mental health support during and prior to COVID-19, bullying, racism/ableism, policing, surveillance and/or criminalization in schools

  • Analyzing findings from consultations and using this information – along with other existing data across the province – to co-develop a final report with recommendations for educational institutions and respective levels of government

  • Building and distributing an accessible “Navigating the Education System as Disabled Youth” toolkit, as informed by disabled youth and community members throughout the course of the project

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