Issue Brief: Increasing School Connectedness for Girls: Restorative Justice as a Health Equity Resource

Schools can play an essential role in ending health inequities. But not all students experience schools in the same ways. Given the intersectional factors of race, gender, sexual identity, and poverty in their lives, marginalized girls are at a particularly high risk of negative outcomes in schools, including punitive and exclusionary discipline, school pushout, and contact with law enforcement and the juvenile justice system.

They also face high rates of trauma, which further elevates their chance of decreased school engagement even in the absence of other factors. Taken cumulatively, the experience of marginalized girls makes them uniquely vulnerable to lower levels of educational attainment, leading to lifelong negative health effects.

School connectedness, defined as students’ belief that adults in their school care about their learning and about them as individuals, results in lower rates of health-risk behaviors and improved academic performance.

Over the last ten years, evidence has increasingly shown that in addition to reducing discipline disparities, restorative justice (RJ) has also been shown to promote positive student and teacher relationships and peer-to-peer relationships, healthier school climates, increased feelings of self-efficacy, improved academic performance, and social and emotional skill development. Each of these outcomes fosters school connectedness, which ultimately advances health equity for students.

Read more at Georgetown Law Center 

Mental Health, School-Based Health Centers, and Girls of Color: Policy and Practice Recommendations

This compendium of policy and practice recommendations aggregates a set of proposals to enhance mental health outcomes and thriving for girls of color. To understand the background and context for these recommendations, please review the Georgetown Law Center’s Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity issue briefs on Mental Health and Communities of Color, Mental Health and Girls of Color, and The Promise and Challenge of School-Based Mental Health Care for Girls of Color.

Position Girls of Color as Psychological Subjects. Girls of color face high rates of suicide and endure significant adverse childhood experiences, yet their pain goes unrecognized or is mislabeled, and their needs remain unmet. It is imperative that adults in intervening public systems and those in the health and mental health profession begin to recognize girls of color as psychological subjects with important perspectives on the care they are receiving or have failed to receive. Programs should reflect information on student preferences and regularly collect and apply student feedback.

Read the full report at Georgetown Law Center of Poverty & Inequality’s Initiative of Gender Justice & Opportunity. 

The Promise and Challenge of School-Based Mental Health Care for Girls of Color

The majority of youth who need mental health services don’t receive care — a trend that has persisted over time. The gap between the need for care and access to care is accentuated for youth of color. Because young people between the ages of 5 and 19 spend most of their waking hours in school settings, school-based health centers are particularly suited to close that gap. School-based health programs serve as entry points to primary care, while also being part of a larger care system or a “medical home,” especially for children who otherwise lack consistent access to care. Services are available through “push technology” (always offered through the school year) rather than obligating students and parents to “pull” resources by initiating or activating contact independently.

Read more at Georgetown Law Center of Poverty & Inequality’s Initiative of Gender Justice & Opportunity

Why won’t society let Black girls be children?

Punishment was a hallmark of my educational experience.

It started when my preschool teacher labeled me as manipulative and intentionally disruptive. She even tried to film me to prove to my mother I was a problem — she never got that footage, and accused me of pretending to behave at the sight of the camera.

Although I was only 3 years old, she was convinced that my insistent hand raising and refusal to sit still were signs that I was malicious instead of simply understimulated. As soon as I was old enough to understand what happened, my mom didn’t hesitate to tell me the story each time I expressed self-doubt. She wanted me to understand I wasn’t a problem, I was simply an engaged learner. In a world where falling in line was more important than shining, my strengths were a threat.

Read more at The New York Times. 

Bill seeks to ease harsh discipline against girls of color

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley is pushing legislation aimed at confronting what she described as punitive disciplinary actions taken disproportionately against girls of color in school.

The Massachusetts Democrat said from kindergarten through their senior year in high school, black girls are seven times more likely to be suspended as white girls, and four times more likely to be arrested at school.

Pressley said Latino and Native American girls are also suspended from school at higher rates than white girls.

Read more at NECN. 

Ending Harsh Discipline Against Girls of Color

Across America girls of color are disproportionately subjected to punitive disciplinary actions in school—this is especially true for Black girls.

From kindergarten through their senior year in high school, Black girls are seven times more likely to be suspended as White girls, and four times more likely to be arrested at school. As early as preschool, where Black girls account for 54 percent of all girls suspended despite being only 20 percent of the girls enrolled. Latina and Native American girls are also suspended at disproportionately high rates.

U.S. House Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) recently introduced legislation, The Ending Pushout Act, designed to confront this issue. The bill calls for $2.5 billion in new federal grants to help states and districts that commit to ban unfair and discriminatory school discipline practices and improve school climates.

In addition, it would strengthen the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights by setting aside $2.5 billion for additional enforcement and monitoring while also creating a federal task force focused on ending the crisis of School Pushout impacting girls of color.

Read more at Black Voice News. 

Data show girls in NYC schools receive special ed services at disproportionately lower rates than boys.

Little is known about girls — especially girls of color — who are learning with disabilities in the nation’s largest school district.

Amid a year of damning reports and investigations that unveiled continuing failures within New York City’s massive special education system to evaluate and provide timely supports to tens of thousands of students, the city’s Department of Education released an annual report in November touting a record 84.3 percent of special education students receiving their full required services in 2018-19.

Also within the 47-page document was a less heralded statistic: There were 130,885 boys with special education accommodations in NYC schools that year, versus 66,995 girls, despite a fairly equitable distribution of both boys and girls systemwide.

Read more at The 74 Million

A just society doesn’t criminalize girls

Too frequently, educational justice is denied for girls – especially for girls of color. Schools should be the safest place for our children and yet, for many girls of color, the school environment adds painful weight to their already heavy emotional backpacks.

Across our country, black and brown girls are pushed out of school not because they pose any sort of threat, but for simply being who they are. Society too often deems our hair too distracting and our bodies too proactive, our voices too loud, and our attitudes too mean — demeaning our very existence before we even reach adulthood. According to the National Women’s Law Center, black girls in preschool are 54 percent of the girls receiving out-of-school suspensions despite making up only 20 percent of girls enrolled in preschool. Preschool.

Read more at the Boston Globe

Decriminalizing Black Girls

A report from the Legal Aid Justice Center earlier this year found a 60% increase in criminal charges against black girls in schools over the last three years, for everything from cutting the lunch line to running in the cafeteria.

It’s not just happening in Virginia, either. Monique Morris, an author, scholar and filmmaker, breaks down the causes behind the national crisis of black girls being removed from school in her new documentary, “Pushout: the Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools.”

In limited release, the film is coming to Richmond on Nov 12 for a screening at Virginia Union University following a rally by Girls for a Change, a local nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of black girls.

Read more at Style Weekly. 

Muslim Student Athlete Disqualified From Race for Wearing Hijab

Noor Alexandria Abukaram has played three high school sports since she began wearing a hijab in 2016. But she said that it was not until last weekend — after her seventh cross-country race of the season — that she learned she wasn’t allowed to run in her head scarf without special permission.

The decision by the Ohio High School Athletic Association official to disqualify Ms. Abukaram, 16, last Saturday was met with outrage on Thursday, one day after she wrote about the episode on Facebook. In an interview, she said, “It was like a nightmare came true.”

Read more at The New York Times