Racial Injustice in Schools: Underscoring Social Work’s Obligation to Promote Antiracist Practice

Aug 10, 2021

social work journal cover 0ct0ber 2019 cropped 3

Children of color (COC) continue to have a range of disparate educational experiences that implicate structural and institutional racism as powerful, detrimental forces in P–12 schools. As members of a profession dedicated to empowerment and the dismantling of oppression, social workers are called to respond. Social workers work in and with schools in diverse roles (for example, as practitioners, community partners, organizational leaders, and contracted providers) and are ethically obligated to challenge injustice.

An article in a recent issue of the journal Social Work, co-published by NASW and Oxford University Press discusses this concern. This article—anchored in a framework focused on how race operates in schools and in the field of social work—considers the state of affairs for COC in schools, social work’s professional and ethical obligations, and extant opportunities for social workers to learn to address structural racism. The authors identify a gap between COC experiences and social work candidates’ preparation to respond, and therefore advocate for social work’s more explicit commitment to antiracist practice, research, and pedagogy.

The authors share examples from within and beyond the field of social work that can guide next steps, anticipate challenges that would arise, and assert the importance of pursuing antiracism as a route toward meeting our profession’s ethical obligations. The article concludes with a discussion of implications for social work education, research, and practice.

Study authors:

  • Kate L. Phillippo, PhD, associate professor of cultural and educational policy studies, School of Education and School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago
  • Jandel Crutchfield, PhD, LCSW, assistant professor, School of Social Work, University of Texas at Arlington


The journal Social Work is a benefit of NASW membership. It is available online or, at a member’s request, in print. Children & Schools, Health & Social Work and Social Work Research are available by subscription at a discounted rate for NASW members, either online or in print. You can find out more about the journals and subscriptions at this link.