In a new report titled, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced And Underprotected, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and her co-authors Priscilla Ocen and Jyoti Nanda bring forth the experiences of young African American women facing increased surveillance and overreaching forms of policing and discipline in their daily lives — at school, in their communities, and across the institutions to which they belong. The focus of this report rings especially (and heartbreakingly) true in light of the most recent act of institutional overreaching captured on a video that shows a school resource officer in South Carolina violently dragging a student from her desk in the middle of a classroom and eventually hurling her onto the floor. (We will have more to say about this particular incident in the next few days.)
The report — a publication by the African American Policy Forum and the Center For Intersectionality And Social Policy Studies — is based on focus groups and stakeholder interviews conducted in Boston and New York City between September 2012 and August 2013. A summary of the findings is reprinted below, followed by a list of recommendations based on conversations with the young woman in both cities; we see the latter as recommendations for praxis. We encourage you to read the full report and not only share this work, but also extend the implicit call to action in your various locations.
Summary of findings
- In New York and Boston, Black boys and girls were subject to larger achievement gaps and harsher forms of discipline than their white counterparts.
- At-risk young women describe zero-tolerance schools as chaotic environments in which discipline is prioritized over educational attainment.
- Increased levels of law enforcement and security personnel within schools sometimes make girls feel less safe and less likely to attend school.
- Girls’ attachment and sense of belonging in school can be undermined if their achievements are overlooked or undervalued.
- 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.
- The failure of schools to intervene in situations involving the sexual harassment and bullying of girls contributes to their insecurity at school.
- Girls sometimes resort to “acting out” when their counseling needs are overlooked or disregarded.
- School-age Black girls experience a high incidence of interpersonal violence.
- Black and latina girls are often burdened with familial obligations that undermine their capacity to achieve their academic goals.
- Pregnancy and parenting make it difficult for girls to engage fully in school
Recommendations for praxis
- 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 u.S. 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.