Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise of Opportunity

by Kisha Bird; Linda Harris; Rhonda Bryant

Feb 1, 2013

This issue brief presents findings from a scan of issues facing boys and men of color in education, health, and pathways to employment. Drawing on discussions, surveys, and interviews with experts and practitioners, the paper identifies 8 pressing concerns and gives accompanying recommendations. Areas that emerge as having great potential for impact are: reforming harsh school discipline, early interventions for dropout prevention, trauma-based mental health interventions, and career training programs.
  • In combination with policy efforts, engaging school district leaders to rethink discipline strategies and expanding community-based alternatives to juvenile detention can address the problem of harsh school discipline approaches that push young men of color off the path to graduation and/or employment.
  • Attendance, behavior, and coursework completion are the three primary indicators of future high school dropout. Better tracking of this data would enable districts to put systemic dropout-prevention strategies into place based on early warning systems.
  • Young males of color that participated in the Department of Labor's Youth Opportunity Grant Program cited "case managers or teachers" as the single most helpful element in reenrolling in an educational program. The function of the "caring adult" should be emphasized across social, educational, and employment programs and policy.
  • Youth behaviors are too infrequently recognized as signs of trauma. Juvenile judges, social service staff, and school leaders need to understand and address the effects of trauma and violence, including the tendency of suspension, expulsion, and police presence to reinforce feelings of hopelessness and mistrust.
  • Solutions for boys and young men of color must begin to pay greater attention to the issues facing those in suburban and rural environments, including increased poverty and critical problems of transportation and employment.