The U.S. Has Been Silencing Black Girls’ Voices for Decades

A recent story about a group of girls fighting for civil rights in Georgia in the 1960s serves as a vital reminder that racial injustice is deeply rooted in the history of our juvenile justice system — and shows us how Black girls’ voices, resistance, and leadership can help us pave the way for something better.

In the summer of 1963, a group of girls in Americus, Georgia, refused to accept the blatant discrimination around them. “We all wanted change,” Lulu Westbrook Griffin, who was just 12 at the time, told students last year during a presentation in Rochester City, New York. The girls wanted to fight against the discrimination they saw represented in the signs posted all over their town: “Whites only drinking fountain.” “Coloreds use the back door.” “No Negroes allowed.” They also fought more broadly for equity. “We wanted better schools. We wanted better jobs. We all wanted to be treated equally,” she explained in an interview for Heather E. Schwartz’s 2017 book Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protesters at the Leesburg Stockade. “It was a matter of standing up for what you knew was right.”

Read more at Teen Vogue. 


Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley Tackles The ‘PUSHOUT’ Of Black Girls At School

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) knows that for too many Black girls, an average school day can spiral out of control with life-altering consequences. A fight with a classmate, a tense exchange with a teacher, or a dress code infraction, are increasingly yielding harsh disciplinary action and criminalization for children of color, including Black girls.

Today, data shows that while African American girls comprise about 16 percent of the U.S. school population, they now make up 33 percent of school-related arrests.

Read more at Essence. 

The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

The new book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools is an examination of the experiences of Black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged “by teachers, administrators, and the justice system and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish.” In the book, author Monique Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, Black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.

Learn more at Truthout. 

Black Girls Can’t Dress Their Way Out of Racist or Sexist Policies

Schools are opening their doors to a new group of students, ready to take lessons designed to shape their lives and worldviews in lasting, meaningful ways. But what lessons will they draw from restrictive school dress codes? Nothing good. Yet, schools such as Roosevelt High School, which fared poorly in the National Women’s Law Center analysis of school dress codes, continue to enforce rigid dress code rules, regulating girls’ bodies with detailed descriptions of “appropriate” necklines, fit and shirt type and even banning skirts, dresses and shorts entirely.

Read more at the Washington Post

Black Girls Say D.C. School Dress Codes Unfairly Target Them. Now They’re Speaking Up.

For generations, girls have been sent to the principal’s office for violating dress codes: Shorts must reach past fingertips. Shirts can’t be too low-cut. No spaghetti straps. No cleavage.

But these rules are often enforced in uneven ways, and black girls are disproportionately targeted, students from the District said in a report last year from the National Women’s Law Center. Now, some of those students are beginning to speak up — organizing walkouts, lunchtime protests and meetings with administrators to call out dress codes they see as unfair.

In a new report released Wednesday, the National Women’s Law Center highlighted some of these recent shifts and rated D.C. public and charter high schools based on the strictness of their dress code policies.

Read more at The Washington Post

Half of Black Girls Report Being Sexually Coerced. There are Ways We Can Help Protect Them.

All women have a difficult time proving sexual abuse, but for black women and girls, it can be nearly impossible. So they often suffer in silence and abuse goes unreported. The decision by some African American women not to report their sexual assaults may also be influenced by a criminal justice system that historically has treated European-American perpetrators and victims differently than perpetrators and victims of color.

According to National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women, among students, 11.2% of black girls in a national high school sample reported they had been raped and 52% of a black Midwestern high school and college students reported sexual coercion.

The purpose of the #Metoo movement, founded by Tarana Burke, was to empower women of color living in underprivileged communities who had experienced sexual abuse. She created a hashtag for the voiceless. But this movement has become a catalyst for white Hollywood actresses. Moving far from its source, one seldom hears references to the founder or to black women in the mainstream #Metoo discussion

Read more at the Journal Sentinel.

Schools Keep Punishing Girls who Report Sexual Assaults, and the Trump Administration’s Title IX Reforms Won’t Stop It

Early in the morning on Nov. 7, 2017, a teacher noticed a 14-year-old girl crying in the hallway at Carol City High School in Miami-Dade County. The girl, who was later referred to in court papers as Jane Doe, reportedly told the teacher, “I think I was raped.”

Moments later, Doe went to the assistant principal’s office to tell administrators about the three boys who she said sexually assaulted her in a school bathroom. A school police officer questioned Doe, a Latina ninth-grader, and asked her to write a statement about what happened. Later that day, Carol City High administrators decided the event was consensual. They suspended Doe and the three accused boys for 10 days, noting that the students had violated rules against “inappropriate sexual behavior” on campus, according to the state attorney’s office.

“School is supposed to be a resourceful place, somewhere you can trust,” Jane Doe, now 16, told The 74. “That wasn’t what it turned out to be. It turned out to be somewhere where they just turned their backs against you.”

The scenario that played out at Carol City High mirrors cases around the country. A school in Piscataway, New Jersey, handed a 10-day suspension for “disorderly conduct” to a black girl who said she had been sexually assaulted on a bus. After a girl in Tucson, Arizona, said that she had been raped, the school district suspended her for “public sexual indecency.” A Brooklyn, New York, high school suspended a 15-year-old female black-Hispanic student “with well-documented developmental disabilities” who was sexually assaulted by a group of boys, according to the complaint, because administrators considered it “consensual sexual conduct on school premises.” At least one of the accused male students was later charged with sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Read more at the LA School Report.

What Toni Morrison’s, The Bluest Eye, Taught Me About Being a Black Girl in America

In 1994, I was a 4th grader with an imagination that often found me daydreaming myself far, far away from the confines of my windowless classroom, from the boring, incomplete or inaccurate history lessons and the math that was becoming increasingly difficult to perform. Though I loved books, I also found myself in need of escape from the overwhelmingly white children that dominated so much of the literature my all-Black classmates and I were tasked with reading.

Leisure reading gave me the freedom to seek representation on the page, but that wasn’t always the easiest task. There were some options crafted for young African-American readers, but the vast majority of pre-teen lit was about white kids. I found some common ground with the members of The Babysitters Club and the “perfect size 6”-wearing twins of Sweet Valley High when I could. But they were no match for the magic of seeing the world through the eyes of Black authors, even if most Black-penned fiction was written for adult audiences. I had to find myself where I could, and it was that search for stories that felt like they were penned with me in mind that led me to The Bluest Eye, the first novel of Toni Morrison, the Nobel prize winning author who died last week at the age of 88.

Read more at Refinery29. 

How Negative Perceptions At School Can Impact on Black Girls And Their Education

School is one of the most important early environments to foster future success in a child, and teachers play a huge part in crafting what their students’ future lives and careers will look like.

But when teachers play such an important role in guiding young and vulnerable mini-adults through the world, what happens when certain children aren’t given the same attention as their peers? When a child is seen as needing less nurture and support than their classmates, what kind of long-lasting impact can this have?

In 2017, Georgetown Law’s Centre on Poverty and Inequality released “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood“, a study that provided data showing that “adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5-14.” Because of this, they are seen as needing “to be comforted less” and are assumed to know more about “adult topics”.

Read more at Refinery29.

Sally Nuamah on how punishment against black girls impacts our democracy

As an undergraduate student at George Washington University, Sally Nuamah studied abroad in Ghana and observed the numerous barriers to achievement girls faced as they attended schools designed without them in mind.

This experience sparked her interest in researching black women and girls’ education and led her to create a documentary on the lives of girls in Ghana. Nuamah founded an organization, the TWII Foundation, that has supported around 30 girls with the resources they need to achieve. In fact, the screenings from her documentary raised money to send the three girls in the film to college.

Her scholarship centers on black women and girls and education, and she has received national attention for it. During her one year as an assistant professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, Nuamah was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 in education, a Chron15 pioneer and a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. Now, she’ll be pursuing her studies as an assistant professor at the Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy.

Read more at The Chronicle.