About the Book

Willful Defiance
March to end the 1033 program in Los Angeles by the Labor Community Strategy Center and Dignity in Schools Campaign, 2016.

About the Book

Willful Defiance tells the story of how Black and Brown parents and students organized to dismantle the school–to–prison pipeline in their local schools and built a movement that spread across the country. It examines organizing processes in Mississippi, Los Angeles and Chicago, showing how parents and students of color changed exclusionary discipline policies that suspend and expel students of color at disproportionate rates and policing practices that lead students into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The book documents the struggle to build a movement led by community groups and people most impacted by injustice rather than Washington–based professional advocates. It lifts up lessons for organizing and building movements that build the power to win policy changes to transform deep–seated and systemic racism in public schools and the broader society.


  • It shows that Black and Brown parents and students were the first to name the school-to-prison pipeline, call for an end to the criminalization of students and families, and launch a movement to end racist school discipline and policing practices at a time when few were listening in mainstream civil rights and education reform groups.
  • It documents the critical role that people most impacted by injustice – Black and Brown parents and students – play in creating racially equitable policy and practice in schools and generating humane and empowering forms of education.
  • It is full of the voices of students and parents of color who tell their stories of their experience with racist discipline and policing practices and their journeys to become leaders and organizers challenging the school-to-prison pipeline and transforming themselves, their schools, and their communities.
  • It documents the emergence of intersectional organizing to address issues facing girls of color and trans and queer youth in the movement.
  • It shows how the explicitly antiracist organizing by the school-to-prison pipeline movement was ahead of its time and helped lay the foundation for success in defunding police in schools, as it intersected with the movement for Black lives.
  • It is the first study to highlight how local education organizing groups have combined together with allies to build a national educational justice movement – and one that strengthens and spreads local organizing so they can win victories – rather than being dominated by professional advocates in Washington.
  • It is based upon a multiyear study of grassroots organizing efforts by parents and students of color and was conducted in partnership with the national coalitions that include these groups: the Dignity in Schools Campaign and the Alliance for Educational Justice.

About the Author

Mark R. Warren is professor of public policy and public affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is a sociologist and community engaged scholar who studies and works with community, parent and youth organizing groups seeking to promote equity and justice in education, community development and American democratic life. Warren is the author of six books, including Willful Defiance. Mark has co-founded several networks promoting activist scholarship, community organizing and education justice, including the People’s Think Tank on Educational Justice, the Urban Research Based Action Network, and the Special Interest Group on Community and Youth Organizing in the American Educational Research Association. He has won a number of awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. He is married to Roberta Udoh, a Boston Public Schools teacher, and together they have raised two beautiful daughters. Visit Mark’s website here.

A Movement-Building Book

Willful Defiance was produced in partnership with organizing groups and coalitions working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, who helped Mark Warren design and conduct the research for the book. Mark and his partners want the book to be a resource to support organizing and movement-building for educational justice – by lifting up strategies and successes, by sharing the lessons of the victories of the last fifteen years, and by applying these lessons to the challenges facing the movement today.

Check out the work of these amazing partners:

National Organizations







New York