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 

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

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Nationwide, the voices of Indigenous people have united to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous
woman and girls (MMIWG). Though awareness of the crisis is growing, data on the realities of this violence is scarce.

The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women and that rates of violence on reservations can be up to ten times higher than the national average. However, no research has been done on rates of such violence among American Indian and Alaska Native women living in urban areas despite the fact that approximately 71% of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas.

To fill this gap, in 2017, Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), a tribal epidemiology center, began a study aimed at assessing the number and dynamics of cases of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls in cities across the United States. This study sought to assess why obtaining data on this violence is so
difficult, how law enforcement agencies are tracking and responding to these cases, and how media is reporting on them. The study’s intention is to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the MMIWG crisis in urban American Indian and Alaska Native communities and the institutional practices that allow them to disappear not once, but three times—in life, in the media, and in the data.

Read the full report at Urban Indian Health Institute

‘Nobody saw me’: why are so many Native American women and girls trafficked?

va was found at dusk in late December 2016, standing in an Albuquerque parking lot. The 15-year-old Navajo girl had been missing more than two weeks when her grandmother got a call from the Bernalillo county sheriff’s office – saying her silver Ford truck had been recovered.

“I don’t care about the truck, what about my granddaughter?” Heidi demanded.

She drove three hours, from her house outside Gallup, and arrived a few minutes after 1am to see Eva emerge from the juvenile holding area, quiet and hunched. Her cheeks and neck looked skeletal. She kept her answers short and rolled her eyes. A familiar pattern was unfolding.

Back in the car, Heidi locked the doors. Give me my phone, Eva said.

Eva was among the thousands of human trafficking victims targeted and exploited in the US every year, of whom only 10% are ever identified. In New Mexico, a mere 160 cases have been opened since 2016. But, while Native Americans make up about 11% of the state’s population, they account for nearly a quarter of trafficking victims, according to data compiled from service organizations.

Read more at The Guardian. 

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

Making missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls visible

In January, Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo woman from New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation from Kansas, joined the U.S. House of Representatives as the first Native American women ever to serve in Congress; in June, the librarian of Congress named the first Native American woman as U.S. Poet Laureate—Joy Harjo, a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation.

A priority issue for Harjo, Haaland and Davids is the epidemic of violence against indigenous women and girls in the United States. “Congress has never had a voice like mine, a Native American woman who sees the blind spots that have existed for far too long,” Rep. Haaland said. “That’s why I’ve been working on multiple bills and legislation to address this crisis.”

Read more at Ms.Magazine 

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. 

Black Kids Go Missing at a Higher Rate than White Kids.

The chilling story of Jayme Closs, the 13-year-old Wisconsin girl who was kidnapped after her parents were killed last year, was national news.

But people might be less familiar with the story of Arianna Fitts, a 2-year-old who went missing in 2016 before her mother was found brutally murdered in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Each of these cases is compelling, but the two didn’t receive the same amount of media attention. Some experts believe it’s because Closs is white and Fitts is black.

In fact, data shows that missing white children receive far more media coverage than missing black and brown children, despite higher rates of missing children among communities of color.

Read more at CNN. 

The Criminalization of Black Girlhood

“The Black woman is the most unprotected, unloved woman on earth. … She is the only flower on earth … that grows unwatered.” This quote by Kola Boof, a Sudanese American novelist, reigns true for black girls and women throughout every generation. For centuries, black girls and women have been criminalized, dehumanized, hypersexualized, degraded, objectified and stereotyped. From a young age, black girls are viewed as threats and often face criminalization in the very place where they should be getting an education: school.

Read more at the Ithacan. 

Suicide Attempts Among Black Children and Teens Increasing at Alarming Rates

Suicide attempts among black children and teens are increasing at alarming rates. And while suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens across the United States, suicide attempts over the past two decades decreased for teens in all ethnic groups except for African Americans. These disturbing findings come from the study, “Trends of Suicidal Behaviors Among High School Students in the United States: 1991-2017,” published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Self-reported suicide attempts for black adolescents rose by 73% between 1991 to 2017. In comparison, self-reported suicide attempts for white adolescents fell by 7.5% over the same period. The findings are based on data from nearly 200,000 high school students from the nationally representative Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Read more at CBS.