Professional Biography

Dr. Kelsey M. Jones is a postdoctoral fellow in the Applied Psychology and Human Development division at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Her interests include the school-to-prison pipeline, dis/ability and giftedness in Black and Brown youth, and the education of Black and Brown children in special education spaces. Dr. Jones works at the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC) housed within the Applied Psychology and Human Development department at Penn GSE. Her work at REC focuses on the development of accessible literary magazines designed to promote racial literacy for children, adolescents, caregivers, and educators as well as the development of qualitative research focused on the school-to-prison pipeline.

Dr. Jones taught self-contained special education for lower-elementary students in Brooklyn, NY, where she was responsible for differentiating instruction, creating a safe learning space, and advocating for her students’ unacknowledged strengths in school environments while addressing their diverse academic, social, and emotional needs. In 2009, the Education Equality Project recognized her for excellence in teaching. Dr. Jones’s practitioner research and master’s thesis focused on the unique experiences of Black and Brown special education students and the need for knowledge, empathy, inquiry, and social justice in practice and research. She has facilitated a series of forums with the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, developing strategies for sustainable dialogue between schools and communities and highlighting the needs of diverse student populations and multi-lingual families. She served as a facilitator in the regional forum, What Makes Schools Safe?, hosted by WHYY and Newsworks, and led small group discussions on issues of school violence and the mental health of students.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Jones continues to research the school-to-prison pipeline, using qualitative methods to understand the emotional and social effects of the pipeline on children, families, and educators from Pre-Kindergarten through high school. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Jones had the opportunity to work on a variety of research projects within the university and the Philadelphia community. She was a research consultant and program evaluator with Sankofa, a sponsored mentorship program from the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color that supports the academic and social needs of Black and Brown male students in Philadelphia high schools. Dr. Jones was also a research assistant with Shape Up! Barbers Building Better Brothers Project, assisting in the development of role-play scenarios designed to address Black men’s responses to conflict, specifically with romantic partners.

In 2012, she was a fellow with Education Pioneers, where she developed a plan to promote parental engagement in schools with Houston A+ Challenge, a non-profit organization based in Texas. For four years, Dr. Jones managed Dr. Howard Stevenson’s Preventing Long-term Anger and Aggression in Youth (PLAAY) project, which uses psycho-educational sessions and physical activity to help Black and Brown youth identify and address racial stress. As the project manager, she facilitated psycho-educational group sessions and started a girls’ group for the traditionally male-focused program, helping to create new curricula for both boys and girls participating in PLAAY.

Dr. Jones’ dissertation, Never Been: An Exploration of the Influence of Dis/ability, Giftedness, and Incarceration on Adolescents in Adult Correctional Facilities, provides new perspectives on the lives of incarcerated youth, as well as a deeper understanding of dis/ability and the socially-constructed identities with which a student interacts, placing the school-to-prison pipeline in conversation with systemic racism, the power of ecological systems, and theories of critical praxis. Specifically, the work reveals the lack of consideration for adolescent development. Never Been also offers a space for thinking about the development of critical theories and best practices for researchers who understand the importance of creating frames for the narratives and needs of those willing to share their stories.


Ph.D. (Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development) University of Pennsylvania, 2015

M.S.Ed. (Childhood Special Education) Long Island University, 2010

B.A. (Psychology and English) Williams College, 2008

Areas of Expertise

The school-to-prison pipeline

Juvenile incarceration

Dis/ability studies in education

Special education

Teacher education (child development and racial literacy)

Community-based interventions and mental health supports

Selected Publications

Jones, K. M. (in press). Still gifted: Understanding the role of racialized dis/ability in the school-to-prison pipeline. In K. Fasching-Varner, L. Martin, R. Mitchell, & A. Daneshzadeh (Eds.), Dismantling the school to prison pipeline. New York, NY: Lexington Press. 

Stevenson, H. C., & Jones, K. M. (2015). What if my Trayvon came home? Teaching a wretched truth about breathing while Black. In K. Fasching-Varner & N. Hartlep (Eds.), The assault on communities of color. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.