Pushed Out: The Injustice Black Girls Face in School

Let’s start with the numbers — Black girls make up 16 percent of girls in U.S. public schools, but 42 percent of girls’ expulsions and more than a third of girls’ school-based arrests. Lately we’ve seen some of those arrests in the news — I’m thinking of that child in South Carolina who was thrown across her classroom by a police officer because she wouldn’t give up her cell phone. What’s at work here? What are the forces that have made these girls targets in their schools and communities?

Monique Morris: There are zero tolerance policies in schools and school districts that have really removed the discretionary decision-making abilities of educators and administrators to respond to the core needs of students. And within this elevated climate of punishment, typical adolescent behavior, when exhibited by Black girls coming from communities under extreme surveillance, is very often misunderstood. Their actions are taken—they are misunderstood—as aggressive, even when they’re not.

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