The report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, was put together by the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies. This report seeks to increase the awareness of the gendered consequences of disciplinary and push-out policies for girls of color, and, in particular, Black girls.
The report substantiates the fact that Black girls receive more severe sentences when they enter the juvenile justice system than do members of any other group of girls, and they are also the fastest growing population in the system according to national data.
Here are the report’s key observations:
1. In New York City and Boston, Black boys and girls were subject to larger achievement gaps and harsher forms of discipline than their white counterparts.
2. At-risk young women describe zero-tolerance schools as chaotic environments in which discipline is prioritized over educational attainment.
3. Increased levels of law enforcement and security personnel within schools sometimes make girls feel less safe and less likely to attend school.
4. Girl’s attachment and sense of belonging in school can be undermined if their achievements are overlooked or undervalued.
5. Punitive rather than restorative responses to conflict contributes to the separation of girls from school and to their disproportionate involvement in the juvenile justice system.
6. The failure of schools to intervene in situations involving the sexual harassment and bullying of girls contributes to their insecurity at school.
7. Girls sometimes resort to “acting out” when their counseling needs are overlooked or disregarded.
8. School-age black girls experience a high incidence of interpersonal violence.
9. Black and Latina girls are often burdened with familial obligations that undermine their capacity to achieve their academic goals.
10. Pregnancy and parenting make it difficult for girls to engage fully in school.
The report calls for the development of policies and programs to address these issues and its specific recommendations stem from interviews with girls affected by the above-listed issues as well as stakeholders invested in their futures.
- Expand existing opportunities to ensure the inclusion of Black girls and other girls of color in policy research, advocacy, and programmatic interventions.
- Ensure an equitable approach to funding that supports the needs of women and girls as well as those of men and boys.
- Develop ways to help girls feel safe without an overreliance on punitive interventions.
- Develop robust protocols that ensure that school personnel enforce all students’ rights to learn in an environment free of sexual harassment and bullying.
- Review and revise policies that funnel girls into the juvenile justice system.
- Devise programs that identify the signs of sexual victimization in order to support girls who have been traumatized by violence.
- Advance and expand programs that support girls who are pregnant, parenting, or otherwise assuming significant familial responsibilities.
- Urge the US Department of Education and other information gathering institutions to take the necessary steps to refine statistical reporting on disciplinary matters while disaggregating achievement data along racial and gender lines.
- Develop the public will to address the challenges facing Black girls and other girls of color through elevating their experiences and engaging stakeholders to become actively involved in their welfare.
Let’s all commit to doing more to expand awareness and understanding in order to address these issues appropriately.