Target: Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Goal: Call on officials to prioritize the safety and success of young women of color in public schools, and to ensure they are not punished more harshly than their white counterparts
The “school to prison pipeline” is a term used to describe public schools’ zero tolerance for minor offenses, often impacting students of color with harsher punishments and labeling them as criminals from a very young age. Early interactions with the police, even for something as trivial as name-calling or tardiness, stereotypes good kids while disrupting their education. And while the Obama Administration appears committed to helping end this vicious cycle, one group of students continues to face both persecution and neglect: girls of color.
The African American Policy Forum, partnering with Columbia University, released a report detailing this crisis. Entitled Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, the report discusses how such neglect leaves black girls at greater risk of violence and arrest. Lead author Kimberlé Crenshaw stated that, “As public concern mounts for the needs of men and boys of color through initiatives like the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper, 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.”
According to the Department of Education black girls are suspended at six times the rate of white girls. In some districts the disparity is even more glaring. Non-violent offenses may be punished severely, yet girls defending themselves against sexual harassment and assault receive little in the way of support. Instead, they are often punished for fighting. All this amounts to young women of color feeling targeted and unsafe in public schools.
A policy shift away from “zero tolerance” policing, and which addresses the challenges facing young black women, is sorely needed. Demand that education officials prioritize the safety and success of black girls, and of all young women of color.
Dear Secretary Duncan,
Although the Obama Administration has demonstrated a commitment to ending the school to prison pipeline, young women of color continue to face harsher punishments in America’s public schools. Discrimination, and a lack of support for victims of sexual harassment and assault, have left many black girls feeling unsafe and unwelcome in the classroom. This is completely unacceptable.
Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected documents this disturbing trend and recommends clear steps to fix it. “If the challenges facing girls of color are to be addressed,” the authors argue, “then research and policy frameworks must move beyond the notion that all of the youth of color who are in crisis are boys, and that the concerns of white girls are indistinguishable from those of girls of color.”
Please, stand up for the young women of color in public schools and commit to policies that promote their safety and academic success.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: John H. White via Wikimedia Commons