We’ve been asked why we’re focusing on girls of color this year for our annual Stand Against Racism campaign. In short, this is why. The above video shows a San Antonio school district police officer violently lifting a 12-year-old girl into the air and slamming her to the ground. To be clear, the job of a police officer in schools is to help keep students safe – but that can’t happen when students are cast as criminals on the basis of skin color.
Video recordings like this (and this video from a South Carolina school last October) are disturbing and concerning. Rather than look away – we should be disturbed and we should be concerned because these videos provide a direct, first-hand glimpse into the real-life experiences of many girls of color – particularly Black girls – in our schools. Too often, Black girls’ behavior that is subjectively interpreted as disrespectful or disruptive is met with overly punitive and harsh disciplinary responses, such as removal from class, physical violence, and arrest. Girls of color are suspended at higher rates than White girls, and Black girls are more likely to be suspended White boys and girls of any other race or ethnicity. Suspension from school, in turn, increases the likelihood of both dropping out of school and encountering the juvenile justice system. Even more alarming, girls who interact with the juvenile justice system are likely to have multiple experiences of trauma and abuse, now named the “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.” So the very girls who most need systemic supports are punished more harshly than other students. And the impact of missing school, particularly for disciplinary reasons, has long-term consequences for girls of color, in terms of both their academic achievement and employment. Many of these experiences take place in public schools that are increasingly under-resourced, high poverty, and racially segregated.
This – excessive disciplinary responses for girls of color in high poverty, under-funded, racially-isolated schools, and the resulting academic and employment effects – is illustrative of just some of the many ways in which girls of color experience and feel the impacts of institutional and structural racism. Girls of color deserve better. This is why this year, our Stand Against Racism campaign is aimed at raising awareness and strengthening national dialogue about the impacts of institutional and structural racism on girls of color. We are on a mission for girls of color – join us by taking a Stand Against Racism between April 28 – May 1. Girls of color can’t wait, and they shouldn’t have to.