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Stand Up Against School Pushout of Black Girls

On Tuesday, a North Carolina school resource officer picked up a Black student, lifted her over his head, and slammed her onto the floor of her high school. She lay motionless on the ground, before he picked her up and hauled her away. The footage is reminiscent of last year’s video of a South Carolina police officer grabbing a Black girl by her neck, flipping her on her back, and throwing her across the floor in the middle of class.

Both assaults are horrific — and of a piece with a broader issue of disproportionate, discriminatory (and sometimes violent) discipline of Black girls in school. The U.S. Department of Education reports that Black girls are five times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls, schools are three times more likely to suspend Black girls with disabilities as white girls with disabilities, and Black girls are more likely than students of any other race or gender to be suspended more than once.

These dismal statistics have nothing to do with actual student behavior — Black girls (obviously) don’t misbehave more frequently or seriously than any other students — and everything to do with sexism and racism in school discipline. Discriminatory discipline runs the gamut from pulling girls out of class for violations of (racist) dress codes prohibiting cornrows to suspensions for vague “attitude violations” disproportionately applied to Black girls and other girls of color.

These unfair, inequitable sanctions have real consequences. They can lead to lost class time, lower grades, and increased risk of dropping out or getting pulled into the juvenile justice system. The repercussions can continue long into the future, troubling job and career prospects down the road.

And this discriminatory school pushout isn’t just unethical. It’s also illegal.

If you’re a student, parent, or teacher, download the National Women’s Law Center’s “Let Her Learn” toolkit (available in English and Spanish) to learn students’ rights and evaluate your school’s existing discipline policy and practices. Is your school’s dress code policy sex-specific? Does it target hairstyles or clothing common to certain racial, ethnic, or religious communities? Are girls of a certain race or ethnicity punished more often than others for vague offenses like “talking back”? 

If so, it’s probably time to start organizing. The Trump White House isn’t bound to be a friend in this fight. So, now more than ever, it’s on all of us to act creatively, persistently, and tirelessly to make our schools fair and just.

Video transcript:

This is what they call me in school.

[The words “aggressive”, “loud”, “angry”, “unladylike”, and “rude” appear on the girls’ bodies.]

I was sent home because of how my hair looks.

Had a teacher cut my hair off for playing with my braids.

Thrown to the floor for sitting at my desk.

Black girls are suspended five times more than white girls, but they don’t commit more serious offenses. 

Why is this happening?

[The girls begin to remove the words from their bodies.]

I’m strong.

I’m sensitive.

I’m powerful.

I’m smart.

I’m a leader.

[The words “#LetHerLearn. Join the movement to end school pushout” flash across the screen.]

Header image via the National Women’s Law Center.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a senior editor at Feministing.com and the co-founder (and former ED) of Know Your IX, a national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, and The Nation. She's a student at Yale Law School.

Dana Bolger is the co-founder of Know Your IX and a senior editor at Feministing.

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