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Despite No Differences In Behavior, Black Students 'Penalized More So Than Their White Counterparts'

Jessica Kourkounis
Keystone Crossroads
A new report from the Black Girls Equity Alliance finds that Black youth are ten times more likely than white youth to be referred to juvenile court for "failure to comply with a lawful order."


On today's program: A new report shows that Black students in Pittsburgh are referred to the juvenile justice system at a much higher rate than their white counterparts; and Pennsylvania could join a regional cap-and-trade program.

Advocates say restorative practices are needed to keep kids out of the legal system
(00:00 — 10:31)

Pittsburgh Public Schools refers students to law enforcement atrates higher than students in 95% of similar U.S. cities, according to a newreport released Monday by theBlack Girls Equity Alliance

Black girls are referred at rates higher than those of Black girls in 99 percent of U.S. cities.

While both white and Black youth exhibit similar behaviors, Black students in Pittsburgh “are criminalized or penalized more so than their white counterparts,” says Kathi Elliott, the CEO ofGwen’s Girls and the convener of the Black Girls Equity Alliance. School police disproportionately arrest and refer Black youth to juvenile justice.

“We’re seeing that Black and white youth are being dealt with very differently within our systems,” saysSara Goodkind, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh who worked on the report.

Changing this trend will require restorative practices and halting, what some consider, predatory punishment tactics. The report recommends eliminating police in school, using money formerly allocated to the police for counselors, ending the use of disorderly conduct charges, and more. 

“As calls to address racism echo across the country, we are called to ensure that in our community we are not perpetuating systemic racism through our school, police, and justice systems,” the report states.

What we know about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
(10:35 — 18:02)

The Environmental Quality Board approved draft regulation Tuesday for Pennsylvania to join the regional cap-and-trade program. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) limits carbon dioxide emissions from power plants while raising money for states to spend on things like clean energy programs.

Supporters who want Pennsylvania in RGGI say it would be an important step to mitigate climate change and help grow the economy. But some want to keep Pennsylvania out of RGGI, saying it won’t cut emissions and will eliminate jobs.

StateImpact Pennsylvania’sRachel McDevitt set outto learn if any of these arguments are true.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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