Black Girls Matter

Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected  

In 2014-15, the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS) released Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected and sparked a national conversation about the punitive disciplinary policies that negatively impact Black girls in our nation’s schools. Drawing upon national data, focus groups, and personal interviews with girls and other stakeholders from Boston, MA and New York City, the report pushed back against the long-standing male-centered discourse on the school-to-prison pipeline. Its findings revealed that Black girls and other girls of color experience discriminatory disciplinary policies, and disproportionately high suspension and expulsion rates compared to their peers. In fact, contrary to popular framing, the disparity in disciplinary punishments between Black girls and white girls is greater than the one between Black and white boys. 
 
Kimberlé Crenshaw, the report’s lead author, underscored the need to address the specific challenges facing Black girls. She reminded us that “we must challenge the assumption that the lives of girls and women—who are often left out of the national conversation—are not also at risk.”

As a leading authority in how race and gender shape law and society, Crenshaw argues that an intersectional approach—which encompasses how identity categories such as race, gender, and class overlap to create multiple levels of inequality—is essential to address the relationship between school discipline policies and the school-to-prison pipeline.

The 2015 study cited several examples of excessive disciplinary actions against young Black girls, including the controversial 2014 case of a 12-year-old in Georgia who faced expulsion and criminal charges for writing the word “hi” on a locker room wall. (A white female classmate who was also involved faced a much less severe punishment.)

 

The report also recommended policies and interventions to address challenges facing girls of color, including revising policies that funnel girls into juvenile supervision facilities; developing programs that identify signs of sexual victimization and assist girls in addressing traumatic experiences; advancing programs that support girls who are pregnant, parenting, or otherwise assuming significant familial responsibilities; and improving data collection to better track discipline and achievement by race/ethnicity and gender for all groups.

 

When Black Girls Matter was first published, researchers and advocates faced what Crenshaw called a “knowledge desert,” and not much was known about how discipline disparities affected the school and life outcomes of Black girls. Since the release of the 2015 report, policymakers, stakeholders, and academics are doing more to document and report on harsh school discipline policies that disproportionately impact Black girls and other girls of color.
 

According to 2011-12 U.S. Department of Education data cited in the report, Black boys were three times more likely to be suspended than white boys, whereas Black girls were six times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts. These disproportionate suspension rates have remained the same for Black girls. In addition, 2015-16 data released by the U.S. Department of Education uncovers that nationally Black girls were: 

  • four times more likely to be arrested; 

  • three times more likely to receive corporal punishment; 

  • three times more likely to be referred to law enforcement; and

  • twice as a likely to be physically restrained than white girls

Given the recent research and focus on Black girls’ school experiences, the discursive gaps today are not quite as stark as they were when AAPF and CISPS published Black Girls Matter. But the resources have yet to close the yawning gender divide. Therefore, AAPF and CISPS will collaborate to release an updated report to highlight, from a truly intersectional perspective, all the social factors that sabotage the life chances of Black and brown girls and gender-expansive youth— beginning with their earliest encounters with authority in school.
 

Click on the images below to access the original report, the executive summary, and a #BlackGirlsMatter Social Media Guide, which provides images, tweets, and key messages for you to use in promoting the basic point that Black Girls Matter. 

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WEBINAR: SPRING VALLEY IS EVERYWHERE: WHEN BEING A BLACK GIRL IS YOUR ONLY CRIME

NOVEMBER 3, 2015 WEBINAR RECORDING AND RESOURCES

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We are outraged by the unconscionable act of violence committed in a Spring Valley math class. While we applaud the decision of Sheriff Lott to fire Ben Fields, we are deeply concerned that charges are still pending against two young Black girls. These teenagers are not only victims of police abuse, but also of the entire regime which includes the teacher who tried to expel student from class because of a minor infraction, the administrator who escalated the situation by calling the police, the law that permits students to be arrested for “uncooperative behavior,’’ and the criminal “justice” system that continues to punish two traumatized girls rather than apologizing to them and supporting them. That these two young women are forced to confront the emotional burden of being subjected to criminal adjudication on top of having been physically and emotionally abused is further evidence of how deeply entrenched and harmful this punitive approach to education is.

 

We know that violence against Black girls and women is not new; it is the same violence that brutalized Salecia Johnson, Diamond Neals, Mikia Hutchinson, and Dajerria Becton. The vicious bodily assault on the young Black high school student is indicative of the ways that Black women and girls throughout society encounter state violence on a daily basis.  This system extends beyond Spring Valley and threatens Black girls across the United States.

HERE IS A RECORDING OF OUR WEBINAR ON BLACK GIRLS AND DISCIPLINE ENTITLED,

"SPRING VALLEY IS EVERYWHERE: WHEN BEING A BLACK GIRL IS YOUR ONLY CRIME"

This webinar amplifies the voices of young women who have been impacted by overly punitive discipline policies, educators who have witnessed the criminalization of Black girls in schools, scholars who have researched the gendered and racialized dimensions of the School to Prison Pipeline, and more.