Recently, the National Black Women’s Justice Institute released a list of policy recommendations opposing the criminalization of Black girls. Although Black men and boys are often the center of conversation when it comes to the criminalization of Black people, the current realities for Black girls and women are also grim.
NBWJI’s report, entitled “End School PushOut for Black Girls and Other Girls of Color,” says that according to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Data, Black girls in grades K-12 are seven times more likely to be suspended from school and four times more likely to be arrested on school grounds.
These statistics reflect studies from a 2015 report called “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced And Underprotected.” The report said that data released by the Department of Education for the 2011–2012 school year showed that while Black males were suspended more than three times as often as their White counterparts, Black girls were suspended six times as often. Only 2 percent of White females faced exclusionary suspensions in comparison to 12 percent of Black girls.
In 2019, it seems NBWJI is continuing the work of the 2015 report by acknowledging that punitive practices, such as expulsions or in-school arrests, can increase the risk of girls coming in contact with the juvenile and criminal justice system. With women being the fastest growing prison population, even over men, it’s paramount that Black girls be included in the conversation of decriminalizing Black people.
NBWJI released a list of federal, state and local policy recommendations to help prevent the criminalization of Black girls. The recommendations are inclusive of other marginalized groups, such as Black LGBTQ+ youth, and they operate on the principle that if Black girls are centered in the conversation, it could lead to policy that decriminalizes all Black youth.
On the federal level, recommendations include policies that support pregnant and parenting students in school districts and post-secondary institutions. Instead of discouraging these students from discontinuing their education, NBWJI suggests programs to support the academic success of these students such as access to quality, affordable child care.
Another federal recommendation is increased funding for extracurricular activities that fully integrate girls, transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary youth (TGNC).
Finally, on the federal level, the report calls for the protection of immigrant children by eliminating and preventing the presence of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on school grounds.
On the state level, the report suggests removing all police from schools and disarming school-based personnel. Instead of money going to law enforcement, they suggest directing it to counselors, social workers and restorative justice programming in schools.
On the state and local level, the report calls for alternatives to “zero tolerance” processes. Instead of kicking students out of school via suspensions, expulsions or school-based arrests for subjective minor infractions, the report suggests alternatives like harm reduction, mindfulness and again, more restorative practices. The report especially calls for the end to suspensions and expulsions for pre-K and grades K-2 in favor of strategies to address behavioral problems and to support teachers.
If you want to learn more about the policy suggestions from NBWJI’s report, you can check it out here. You can expect more discussions in the future as the conversation around Black women and girls continues to grow.
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