Facing Race: A National Conference in St. Louis, MO — November 20-22, 2024

Ashley Sawyer

Advancement Project

Ashley is a Senior Staff Attorney at Advancement Project, she is on the Opportunity to Learn team, working to build out AP’s vision of abundance and liberation for Black girls and femmes in public schools. From 2018-2021 Ashley was the Policy Director and Senior Director of Campaigns at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) in Brooklyn, NY. Ashley developed GGE’s policy and organizing infrastructure to expand opportunities and well-being for young people, especially cis and trans youth of color, through city and state policies, coalition work, and legislative advocacy. Ashley was previously a staff attorney at Youth Represent, where she led the representation of youth facing school suspension hearings, and supported the organization’s School Justice Project. She also represented young people in misdemeanor criminal court, licensing hearings, housing court, and other civil legal issues. She led the reentry legal representation for girls and youth placed on the “womens” side of NYC jails. Ashley’s life work is situated where education justice and the criminal legal system collide, she is committed to dismantling prisons and all forms of state violence, to build communities that invest in Black youth rather than harming them. 

Ashley was previously a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow/Staff Attorney at the Education Law Center-PA, where she did special education litigation on behalf of criminalized youth, and policy projects focused on dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline, she also led a project focused on reducing the disproportionate school exclusion of Black girls in Philadelphia. Ashley is an alumna of the Howard University School of Law and Douglass College at Rutgers University. She is licensed to practice in the State of New York.

Presentations from Facing Race 2022

Sankofa: Learning From our Past to Build a #PoliceFreeSchools Future

Incorporating the concept of Sankofa, timelines help us to understand how our struggle for education justice has developed over time, connect our organizing to other movements, and assess the future of our struggle. This workshop will present the National Campaign for Police Free Schools’ (convened by the Alliance for Educational Justice and the Advancement Project National Office) timeline and assessments on school policing over the past 80+ years, understanding that abolition is a multi-generational project.

School policing is inextricably linked to this country’s long history of oppressing and criminalizing Black and Brown people and represents a belief that people of color need to be controlled and intimidated.

The timeline demonstrates that the school-to-prison pipeline was a delayed response by the state to Black and Brown student organizing, and is an extension of the laws, policies, and practices of street policing in Black and Brown communities. As we began to form a movement to end the school-to-prison pipeline, as we began to win (ending zero-tolerance policies, acquiring suspension and arrest data, securing pilot restorative justice programs and funds) the system adjusted, increasing police presence in schools.

Workshop participants will understand this history, reflect on their own personal timelines as history makers, and reflect on future trends in school policing as the system continues to adjust – including the rapid expansion of school surveillance as part of the school policing infrastructure.

Speakers: Saudia Durrant, Jessica Black, Ashley Sawyer