College of Education and Human Development wordmark.

McNair Scholar 2017Aarinola Esther Okelola

Aarinola Esther Okelola is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota studying Elementary Education with a minor in English as a Second Language. With a plethora of teaching experiences during her high school and college experiences both abroad and in state. Aarinola has grown in understanding of the systematic injustices within Education that result in achievement disparities, and will obtain her master’s and initial licensure as a stepping stone to first making a positive impact in the classroom.

Okelola photo
My dream is to obtain my Ph.D. in Education Policy and Leadership, and catalyze change in the systematic inequities present in education, that affect the education attainment of marginalized populations present locally, statewide, and nationally.

Research project

Zero Tolerance vs. Restorative Justice: What are the effects of Punitive Discipline in comparison to Restorative Justice on Minnesota K-12 students’ academic achievement?

Abstract: School discipline has emerged as a critical issue in the discussion of racial inequality in education. School discipline disparities have a disproportionate impact on the futures of young people of color. Research strongly suggests that the "achievement gap" is due in part to unjust discipline practices that push students of color out of the classroom. Other studies suggest that teachers' implicit bias plays a role, where teachers and administrators give harsher punishment to students of color based on preconceived stereotypes. In a 2014 study of 354 participants by Professor Goff and colleagues found that “beginning at the age of 10, Black boys are more likely than their white peers to be misperceived as older” (Epstein et. al., 2017). These perceptions reflect underlying racial factors that result in the greater use of punitive and exclusionary discipline practices with students of color. This paper, therefore, reviews research on the influences of racial disparities in school discipline in Minnesota, and compiles studies of evidence based alternatives to traditional punitive discipline, with particular attention to studies of restorative justice practices. The purpose is to design and launch a survey study with two purposes: (1) to get a census of schools practicing restorative justice; and (2) assess how restorative justice trained educators in the Minnesota K-12 education have or have not been able to implement or sustain restorative practices in their classrooms and school environments. Download poster. [PDF]

Faculty profile

Dr. Catherine Squires attended Occidental College in California, where she developed an interest in History and International relations due to the culture wars (e.g. Anti-Affirmative Action) of that time. Dr. Squires completed her PhD in the School of Speech at Northwestern University, and held a dissertation fellowship at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Squires became a professor at the University of Michigan, jointly appointed in the departments of Communication Studies and the Center for Afro-American & African Studies. She moved to the University of Minnesota (U of M) in 2007, Dr. Squires held the Endowed Chair in the U of M’s School of Journalism, and now serves as a Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the U of M’s Department of Communication Studies.