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She Deserves Dignity

She Deserves Dignity

For students who are at risk of dropping out or who are pushed out of school―many of whom are girls of color―equal educational opportunities remain out of reach.

How does exclusionary discipline impact girls of color, particularly Black girls?

Latina(x), Native American, and Black girls are more likely to experience exclusionary discipline compared to their white peers.

For example, compared to white girls in the 2017–2018 school year, Native American girls were twice as likely to be suspended or expelled.

What is exclusionary discipline?

Exclusionary discipline refers to school policies and practices used to punish students for certain behavior by removing them from their regular classrooms.

Some examples of exclusionary discipline may be familiar:

  • Detention: Punishment where a student is kept in school after hours.
  • Suspension: Temporary removal or ban of a student from class or school.
  • Expulsion: Long-term or permanent removal that bans a student from school. This forces students to attend either alternative schools or unable to re-enroll in school.

But did you know that exclusionary discipline can include other disciplinary actions that are less well-known? These are often called informal removals or informal suspensions.

Informal suspensions are when educators or school officials:

  • Make a student stand in the hallway or sit in another classroom
  • Send a student home or call their parents or guardians to pick them up
  • Force a student from in-person learning to online learning
  • Lock a student out of their online accounts and materials when learning from home

Adultification

Additionally, school discipline and dress code policies are often rooted in racism and sexism. When enforced, these policies can include exclusionary discipline and disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and girls of color. 

 

Black girls can experience adultification in school where school officials are more likely to punish Black girls for normal child and teen behavior (e.g., throwing tantrums, giggling during class, having an “attitude”).

School officials are also more likely to ignore signs of when Black girls need help—even punishing them when they ask for help. This can make it harder for Black girls to feel safe reporting sexual harassment to their schools.

Care & Community, Not Criminalization

What Is School Policing and the School-to-Prison Pipeline?

School policing is when schools employ, contract with, or call in police officers to assist with day-to-day functions in schools, particularly school discipline.

School policing can be carried out by different types of officers, including those who are unsworn law enforcement officers and even school security guards who are allowed to carry weapons.

School districts may choose to call the school-based police officers by a particular name. Some of the most common terms for police officers that are employed by or contract with schools districts are School Resource Officers (SRO) and School Safety Agents (SSA).

School policing is a major feeder to the school-to-prison pipeline.

The school-to-prison pipeline is the national trend of school policies and practices that funnel students out of school and into the juvenile and/or criminal legal systems.

When school police are involved with school discipline, adultification bias can lead school police officers to arrest and assault girls of color, more often than they do other girls.

  • September 2019 – An SRO arrested the 6-year-old student Kaia Rolle in Florida for throwing a tantrum.
  • September 2019 – A 13-year-old Black girl was arrested in Kansas for pointing her fingers in the shape of a gun.
  • July 2020Fifteen-year-old “Grace” was sent to a Michigan juvenile detention center at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for not doing her homework.
  • January 2021 – An SRO slammed 16-year-old Taylor Bracey to the ground, knocked her unconscious, and handcuffed her. The SRO was assigned to de-escalate a school fight.

Policing Girls for Being Girls Has Consequences

Beyond losing critical instruction time with educators, exclusionary discipline and school policing can have long-lasting consequences for students:

  • One school arrest can double the chances that the student drops out of school and can increase the chances of future involvement with the criminal legal system.
  • Students who are constantly being watched and policed report performing worse in school and being less engaged in class.
  • Students who are over-disciplined and -policed are more likely to be chronically absent from school and have a lower likelihood of graduating from high school or enrolling in a four-year college.
  • Some criminal records or other involvement with the criminal or juvenile legal system can negatively impact a student’s college admissions and ability to receive federal financial aid.
  • A woman without a high school diploma can lose at least $912,000 in economic earnings over a 40-year career. That’s almost 1 million dollars!!

We Need to DIVEST From Police in Schools…

Over the years, the federal government has spent nearly $1 billion on grants used to hire school-based police officers. This doesn’t even include the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government spends each year on mechanisms and programs that further criminalize students, like buying metal detectors and giving police access to otherwise private student records.

This also doesn’t include the millions of dollars that states and local municipalities spend under their own budgets for school policing programs each year.

This also doesn’t include the millions of dollars that states and local municipalities spend under their own budgets for school policing programs each year.

…And INVEST in Care and Community

Girls of color—and all students—need schools that are safe, inclusive, and supportive to thrive.

 

Some ways we can support students in feeling safe and thriving in school are:

  • Establishing and implementing police-free school models, such as restorative practices and programs.
  • Using culturally relevant, inclusive, and sustaining curriculum, supports, and resources.
  • Hiring school-based mental health staff, such as counselors, social workers, psychologists, and restorative practitioners.
  • Providing supportive measures to students who report sexual harassment that do not require referrals to police.
  • Using evidence-based and trauma-informed practices.
  • Allowing impacted students, families, and communities to join policy conversations and provide input on school safety.