Theses Doctoral

(Re)framing the Discourse of Parent Involvement:Calling on the Knowledge of Latinx Mothers

Osieja, Eileen Cardona

As early as 1954, families of children who had been segregated into separate spaces fought and succeeded in having their concerns heard in the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. In 1975, P.L. 94-142, Education for the Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) was important because it exposed the history of family-school relations, addressing the multiple forms of inequity, particularly the exclusion of children with dis/abilities from U.S. public schools (Valle & Connor, 2011). Although EAHCA legislation was created to provide solutions to the problems of special education, it appeared to have provided an unequal environment in which the families with the most economic resources could advocate for their children and obtain access to better educational opportunities (Ong-Dean, 2009). Goodwin, Cheruvu, and Genishi (2008) described these policies as based on the “culturally deprived paradigm that compares racially, culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse peoples to a White, middle-class standard” (p. 4).

In this manner, these educational legislative policies are problematic as they have defined parent involvement as meaning families of culturally and linguistically different backgrounds are expected to act or interact with school professionals in particular ways. Moreover, these conceptualizations of parent involvement continue to privilege and perpetuate professional viewpoints based on a Eurocentric middle-class standard (Sleeter, 2001). Bakhtinian theories of language are used to understand how families describe their experiences as they encounter the deficit discourse of parent involvement used by school professionals. This is important because professional jargon or “stratified language” presents a danger in that it is replete with value judgments and beliefs (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 293), assuming power that then comes to inform the ways families understand their experiences and their selves in school contexts. This tells us that it is imperative to know how families of children with dis/abilities experience their communication with school professionals as there is a danger that the discourse of parent involvement will continue to perpetuate particular definitions of family participation that disqualify family knowledge by silencing the potential strengths and contributions of minoritized families (Lareau & Munoz, 2012).

Moreover, the way minoritized families experience school professionals and how this is connected to how they come to be involved in their child’s education is not clear. This study, conducted just before and during the coronavirus pandemic, drew from Disability Studies (DS), disability critical race studies (DisCrit), and Intersectionality theories. It examined family-school communication being fully inclusive of all the ways families engage in the education of their children with dis/abilities at the crossroads of race, ethnicity, dis/ability, class, language, and culture (Hernández-Saca et al., 2018; Annamma et al., 2013). To rethink traditional notions of what counts as knowledge, pláticas (personal exchanges) revealed critical raced-gendered epistemologies that allowed the experiential knowledge of Latinx mothers of children with dis/abilities to be viewed as a strength (Delgado Bernal, 2002).

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Naraian, Srikala
Souto-Manning, Mariana
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
August 4, 2021