Student Profile: Lakhvir Kaur develops structured support for individuals of diverse backgrounds

Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Lakhvir Kaur

Lakhvir Kaur is a doctoral student in the school psychology emphasis of the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology working under Dr. Shane Jimerson. Prior to her studies here, Kaur attended community college and went on to transfer to California State University, Bakersfield where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Post her graduation, she attended California State University, San Bernardino where she graduated with an Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree and PPS Credentials in School Psychology. Her research interests include examining mental health outcomes in Sikh children who become victims of bullying and harassment and developing appropriate school-based interventions and practices. Furthermore, she is interested in exploring English Language Learner’s representation in Special Education, specifically related to identification and placement.

GGSE: What drew you to the field of School Psychology?
Kaur: I was intrigued by the field of psychology due to its focus on mental health support; however, I wanted to also work in the education system; thus, school psychology was the perfect fit. Also, my decision to major in psychology as an undergraduate and pursue an Education Specialist degree program in school psychology was highly motivated by the lack of behavioral and social-emotional support and resources rendered to disadvantaged and neglected youth who need immediate help.

GGSE: You come to UCSB already with a Master's and you have awards from CASP--what are you looking forward to earning your doctorate, given you've already accomplished much?
Kaur: Many English Language Learner (ELL) students are disproportionately identified for behavioral infractions and disability classifications. Clearly, there remains an ongoing need to address how to support ELL students and their families more effectively. Thus, my primary goal to pursue doctoral level education was to acquire deeper knowledge and skills to collaboratively build strong support systems for parents and children from diverse communities (i.e., English language learners) in the United States. In order to be able to help diverse families on a broader level, I need to enhance my research skills in terms of developing a programmatic research agenda and learning to access resources needed to complete meaningful projects.

GGSE: Why are you particularly interested in exploring English Language Learner’s representation in Special Education?
Kaur: Immigrating to the United States at the age of 15 with my family and with little to no knowledge of the English language and American culture, I attended high school. Navigating high school may have been easier had there been adequate support for myself and my family. Despite the challenges of adapting to a foreign culture, limited English skills, and minimal support from peers and family, I learned English, became acquainted with the culture, and graduated high school. Thus, my experiences navigating the educational system in high school and in college allowed me to recognize the need for structured support for individuals of diverse backgrounds, and English Language Learner (ELL) students specifically.This concern is still prevalent in the schools where I lived. Bakersfield, CA is highly populated with the Punjabi community, and for many families, the Punjabi language is the primary language. Unfortunately, there are few school-based professionals who can effectively communicate with these families, resulting in limited structured support for students in these schools who are less fluent with the English language. Generalizing this observation to public schools across the country, many ELL students disproportionately identified for behavioral infractions and disability classifications. Clearly, there remains an ongoing need to address how to support ELL students and their families more effectively in general education and special education. These infractions need to be addressed at a system wide level. Thus, these issues motivated me to further explore  English Language Learner’s representation related to identification and placement in Special Education.

GGSE: Who, living or dead, do you most admire?
Kaur: I admire my family who despite the challenges of adapting to America and becoming financially stable, continued to support my academic endeavors. Due to their motivation, encouragement, and continuous support, I was able to come this far in my academic career.