*A powerful new video calls attention to the racism that black girls often experience through administrative bias and school discipline practices.
The video, part of the Let Her Learn campaign from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), seeks to end school “pushout” — or the use of targeted policies to deny young people their right to education, reports Mashable.
Studies show that in the United States, black girls are suspended from school five times more than white girls. But the so-called “offenses” of the two groups — often related to dress codes and behavioral policies — are quite similar.
In grades K-12, black girls are only 16% of the girls enrolled, but account for 45% of the girls receiving out-of-school suspensions.
“Schools are unfairly pushing black girls out,” says NWLC at its campaign website. “They suspend them for minor stuff — like ‘having an attitude’ or ‘talking back.’ These so-called violations are often informed by stereotypes and bias.
“The result? More frequent and harsher punishment for black girls.”
In the PSA, young black girls talk about peers who have been unfairly targeted by school policies or violence from school staff. Much of the problem, they say, lies in the ways teachers and administrations see their black female students, labeling them “aggressive,” “loud,” “angry,” “unladylike” and “rude.”
The girls in the video call for a shift in the way teachers see black girls. At the end of the PSA, the girls describe how they see themselves: “strong,” “smart” and “sensitive.”
According to NWLC, unfair disciplinary actions often lead to lowered interest in school, lower grades, increased risk of dropping out, distrust of adults and authority figures, and increased risk of juvenile incarceration. These circumstances, NWLC argues, teach black girls that school is an unwelcoming place.
Watch the PSA below:
To solve issues of targeted discipline, the National Women’s Law Center recommends banning all suspensions in early grades. Instead, schools should teach conflict resolution practices, try alternative forms of discipline like restorative justice, and employ counselors over law enforcement officers in schools.
NWLC also has an online toolkit available for students who want to examine their own school policies and see if they unfairly target girls of color. The 12-page toolkit — available in both English and Spanish — provides a starting point for students to learn their rights, how they can advocate for changes in school policy, and where to find dedicated help.