Black girls in the United States make up 16 percent of female students, but make up almost half of girls facing school-related arrests. They are more likely to face harsh disciplinary action and drop out of school. In some instances their behavior can be seen as violent and aggressive on the surface, while deeper issues of trauma trigger these reactions.
Monique Morris, author of “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School,”, said perceptions of black girls in school leads to increased surveillance of behavior and harsher discipline, a trend which Dr. Morris stated, the girls do notice.
“I think what is alarming, and what should be alarming for all of us, is the consistency with which African American girls are represented in discipline conditions,” Morris said.
Due to differing cultural backgrounds and implicit bias, Morris said some teachers may feel disconnected from students, making what should be a relationship of love and care, one of distrust and insecurity.
“I don’t think people for the most part are entering their workspace to be racist or to be biased in any way, but there is a lot of implicit bias that governs our decision making,” according to Morris.
Training is critical in learning how to work in school with girls of color, making sure not to reinforce negative ideas and stereotypes of who they are and who society perceives them to be.
By addressing the problematic nature of the “Zero Tolerance Policy” in schools making all punishment swift and harsh, Morris stated schools are not understanding and addressing all problems at their roots. Rather than taking kids out of learning environments, Morris suggests using restorative techniques and focusing on education.
“Ultimately, if we believe there are no throw away children, we cannot justify the systematic exclusion of children from schools,” Morris states.
In order to combat these implicit biases, and stop the school to prison pipeline for black girls, schools must develop and nurture learning environment that sustains feelings of respect, rather than leave students feeling unsafe or hurt.
Morris’ recommendation? To lead with love.
“We’ve come to a place where we’re leading with discipline. We’re leading with punishment, and that’s problematic.”
Monique Morris will discuss her new book tonight at 6pm at the August Wilson Center.
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