The Education Trust and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released a comprehensive guide to rework school safety in a way that isn’t exclusionary to Black, Latina, and Native American students across the nation. The story of Grace, a 15-year-old Black girl from Michigan, being held in juvenile detention for 78 days for not completing her online school work during the pandemic sent shockwaves across the country. The nationwide news called attention to the way school districts oftentimes discipline female students of color more harshly than their white counterparts. The guide, titled …And they Cared: How to Create Better, Safer Learning Environments for Girls of Color, gives guidance to school districts to better address these disparities to create a safe learning environment for everyone.
To coincide with the release of the comprehensive guide, The Education Trust and NWLC released a video addressing the issue. They start with the heartbreaking footage of an 11-year-old student being brutalized by a police officer who deemed her a threat, despite the calls from teachers saying she is not posing a threat. “America, where girls of color, especially Black girls, are not allowed to be children,” the narration starts off. “Too loud. Too assertive. Too provocative. Too defiant. Too grown. Too distracting. These are the harmful messages girls of color often hear.”
A statistic provided by the organizations reports that Black girls are five times more likely than white girls to be suspended at least once from school and are four times more likely to be arrested at school. Oftentimes, they’re punished for typical child-like behavior and minor infractions.
“As a proud father of two girls of color who attend Maryland public schools, I want them to know they matter and for teachers and administrators to give them and all girls of color in our nation’s schools the chance to succeed and thrive,” John B. King Jr, president and CEO of The Education Trust and 10th U.S Secretary of Education, said in a statement.
“If we truly mean Black Lives Matter, we must turn the rhetoric of solidarity into reality. If we mean it when we say that Breonna Taylor and Grace – the young woman in Michigan who was imprisoned absurdly over homework – matter, then we must also address and dismantle systemic racism and bias in our nation’s classrooms. Black and Native girls are unfairly disciplined at egregious rates, but it doesn’t have to be this way. School and district leaders can act now to create better, safer school environments for girls of color by committing to engage in the necessary work of building an inclusive, anti-racist, and anti-sexist school climate.”
The guide outlines specific actions that state and district leaders can take to fix this issue. This includes using discipline data, eliminating racist and sexist dress codes, implementing “restorative discipline,” and overall making a commitment to supporting family services, restorative justice programs, school counselors and psychologists, and divesting school police or other programs that criminalize students.
“Students deserve to learn without fear, especially during a global pandemic and a countrywide reckoning with racist police violence,” Fatima Gross Graves, president and CEO of NWLC, said in a statement. “But racist school discipline policies continue to limit the learning opportunities and compromise the safety of Black, Latina, and Native girls in this country. Schools – in whatever form they exist in this year, and beyond – should commit to changing these inequities and creating environments that are inclusive and supportive.”
To learn more about the discipline racial disparities in our schools, head over to The Education Trust’s website where you can read up on statistics and download the full guide.