By November 7, 2020, it became clear that we owed the 2020 election to Black women across the country, like Stacey Abrams, Latosha Brown, and the 91% of Black women who voted for Joe Biden—many of whom began working well before November 3 to organize their communities, protect the vote, and stand up for Black lives. The national attention and praise these women have received since the election has been long overdue, but we must do much more to thank them for their efforts. We must focus 2021 on creating learning environments where Black girls have more opportunities to grow into Black women leaders.
A positive learning environment is critical to any student’s success. Many factors can impact how students experience their learning environments, like how a school deals with safety, supports trusting relationships among teachers and classmates, and manages discipline. Over the last few years, research has overwhelmingly shown that discipline practices like removing children from classrooms, hiring police officers, using corporal punishment, and enforcing zero-tolerance policies create a poor learning environment.
Even worse, these practices often lead to school pushout, mostly of Black and brown students, and fuel the school-to-prison pipeline. Black and Native girls, specifically, are the most disproportionately impacted by harsh discipline practices. For example, Black girls during the 2015-2016 school year were four times more likely than white girls to be arrested at school, and Native girls were two times more likely to be suspended at least once.
The Ending Punitive, Unfair, School-based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma (PUSHOUT) Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on December 1, 2019. To celebrate the anniversary week, this series will focus on several federal bills that have been introduced (and one state bill that has been passed) that Congress and state legislatures should take up in the new year. The first highlighted bill in this series is the Ending PUSHOUT Act. These bills address ways to improve school learning environments by getting rid of practices that have historically marginalized Black and Native girls in favor of practices that will allow them to thrive in 2021 and beyond.