Pushout: The Criminalization Of Black Girls In Schools
Monique Morris

The central argument of Pushout is that too many Black girls are being criminalized (and physically and mentally harmed) by beliefs, policies and actions that degrade and marginalize both their leaning and their humanity, leading to conditions that push them out of schools and render them vulnerable to even more harm. We can counter the criminalization of Black girls in schools by first understanding what their criminalization looks like, and then by building a common language and framework for making sure that struggling Black girls are not left behind. We can all get behind a fair and effective education strategy that provides quality education for every young person. p. 8-9

Being sick and tired of being sick and tired—words made famous by civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer—is a concept that is immediately understood by Black women. p. 21

the drive to cast contemporary America as a colorblind society impairs our ability to recognize two important phenomenon: the persistence of segregation and how it shapes the identities of Black girls; and the impacts of systems that reproduce and reinforce unequal access to educational opportunities. No institution is immune to these forces. p. 25

Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond contends that quality teaching includes engaging students in active learning, creating intellectually ambitious tasks, using multiple teaching modalities, assessing student learning and adapting to the learning needs of the students, creating supports, providing clear standards, reflection, opportunities for revision and developing a collaborative classroom in which all students have membership. p. 25

The unemployment rate for Black women with less than a high school diploma is 20 percent, while the rate for Black women with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 6 percent. Quality education matters. p. 32

Black students’ academic performance is more directly linked to relationships with teachers, which may be problematic given that Black children are often labeled as less conforming and more active than their white counterparts, resulting in interactions with teachers that are characterized by more criticism and less support. p. 38

The ghetto’s impact on the student identity of Black girls, also plays out in the classroom as neglect, or what Gloria Ladson-Billings has referred to as granting Black children permission to fail. p. 50

…what constitutes a threat to safety is dangerously subjective when Black children are involved. p. 57

Because children co-create their learning environments—they either choose to abide by stated rules or work in ways to circumvent them, discreetly or overtly—they are active players in their own socialization and in the socialization of teachers. Toss that dynamic in with interpretation and effective communication, and it means teaching is hard work. So is learning. p. 60

The problem is that this hyperpunitive classroom management structure affects girls’ perceptions about the function of school and their relationship with it. This practice may trigger girls who are in trouble with the law and who are already marginalized from school in any setting. The structure fails to meet girls where they are and guide them through their problems, which in all likelihood leads to exacerbated challenges on the other end instead of leading them down healthier, safer paths. [This, and all subsequent, emphasis mine, JH] p.162

A majority of the girls I spoke with perceived the level of the coursework to be below their grade level. Irrespective of age or grade level, girls in the juvenile court school were educated in a single classroom and learned the same material. This was a source of great discontent and anxiety among the girls. Those who felt they were not learning enough to recover credits and return to school with the necessary information to successfully reintegrate into the classroom. p. 162

These girls’ narratives illustrate us (sic.) that it’s crucial for the learning environment to be a place where openness and respect can flourish in order for children to trust that education is their pathway to success. Each girl I spoke with signaled in her own way that she wants to be treated as a human being who is capable of thinking on her own. Her ideas are not lost, her consciousness does not subside and her hopes may not be quashed simply because she is in juvenile hall. p. 165

A U.S. Department of Education study found that 43 percent of incarcerated youth who received remedial education services in detention did not return to school after being released, and that 16 percent of these youth enrolled in school after their confinement but then dropped out after only five months. p. 166

“When the prison slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded.” —Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, writing in Procunier v. Martinez. p. 168

For girls like Heaven, getting an education is not a rehabilitative act; it’s an act of social justice. p. 174

From the lessons, patterns and insight gathered through speaking with Black girls from coast to coast, six themes emerged as crucial for cultivating quality learning environments for Black girls: (1) the protection of girls from violence and victimization in school; (2) proactive discussions in schools about healthy intimate relationships; (3) strong student-teacher relationships; (4) school-based wraparound services; (5) an increased focus on student learning coupled with a reduced emphasis on discipline and surveillance; and (6) consistent school credit recovery processes between alternative schools and traditional district community schools. p. 176

Black girls are most interested in being educated by qualified teachers who teach from similar conditions in shaping the nation’s discourses on equal opportunity. They also want to be treated with dignity and to learn from a curriculum that provides opportunities to discuss and apply their learning to future career or academic goals. p. 190

“I just need to be checked in on more often. Like that progress… [someone to ask, MM], How are you doing with school? So, like, I can make sure I have my focus on school and not on what are my friends doing this weekend… I’d probably want it to be one of my teachers, so that it could be more, like, immediate. It’d be right there in the classroom instead of being, like, a counselor and I can tell him one thing and then go to class or not go to class. Yeah… ’cause I feel like if it was put more in my face. I’d be like, yeah, more focused.” p. 190

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. p. 191

For love to implement the demands of justice, as Martin Luther King Jr. called them, we must shift our lens. We must consider what social innovations might arise when we come together and mobilize our collective wisdom, and thus begin to maximize the power of our input toward social change. Building an adaptive platform for innovation, one that allows us to rethink what we know and what we think works, will reduce the criminalization of our children in schools. p. 191

This process will include a transformative, collective decision-making process that removes our public officials from the center of the discussion about how to initiate change and really begins distribute the locus of accountability in ways that give our local jurisdictions—where decisions are made—power to build community around girls. p. 192

Black girls are less likely than White girls of similar ages to participate in athletic activities. They’re searching for ways to release stress and develop strong interpersonal communications skills, but they are underrepresented in school-based activities that provide an opportunity for them to do that. In district schools nationwide, Black girls are seeking to be woven into the social and academic fabric of their learning environments. They want to learn and know that school is a necessary tool for their overall development. They also know that there are limited opportunities for their full immersion in their learning when they are attending classrooms that emphasize test taking over learning, that silence their ideas and interrogation of the content they are being taught and that emphasize behavior and dress over engagement with the material. p. 234

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