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Schools ‘criminalize’ Black girls, jeopardizing their future success

NNPA NEWSWIRE — While the situation is under investigation, incidents of young girls of color being singled out for disciplinary actions are unfortunately common in schools across the U.S. New findings reveal a stunning and far-reaching impact on these teens and even pre-teens that can negatively affect them and impact their futures in an alarming way.

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A common practice with far-reaching impact

By Carol Ozemhoya, Our Weekly News Contributor

Recently, Our Weekly ran a story about a group of teen girls who were strip searched and chastised at a middle school on the East Coast. No apparent reason was given by the school’s administration, except that the girls – who were Black and Latino – were giggling and boisterous in a school hallway.

While the situation is under investigation, incidents of young girls of color being singled out for disciplinary actions are unfortunately common in schools across the U.S. New findings reveal a stunning and far-reaching impact on these teens and even pre-teens that can negatively affect them and impact their futures in an alarming way.

‘Adultification’ of Black girls

It’s being called “the criminalization of Black girls.” It’s also being referred to as the “adultification of Black girls.”

Does it stem from racism or prejudice? Or can it be attributed to research that suggests Black girls are perceived as maturing at a faster rate than their White counterparts (in general) and thus seem beyond their age. Another point to be made is that Black kids (girls and boys) tend to ask more questions of authority than White kids.

Suspensions of Black girls from schools are often driven by teacher bias and insufficient mental health resources, says a report from AmericanProgress.org published in 2017. They also occur when students break school rules that are inherently racially biased. For example, a charter school in Massachusetts suspended two Black sisters for wearing natural braided hairstyles, which violated the school dress code.

As recent as last week, a report was issued by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality that details stunning statistics and first-hand accounts of how American society and our education system are stacking the odds against young girls of color.

Beginning as early as pre-school

It starts early, says Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37). “It can actually start with pre-school,” she told Our Weekly. “Can you believe it?”

Rep. Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, says her and her colleagues are aware and working on legislation to combat the trend. “I am focusing here in Congress on prison reform from the perspective of African-American women and children. It’s not shocking what our numbers are when you see how the labeling starts at a young age.”

As early as age 5, Black girls are reportedly viewed by adults as more knowledgeable about sex and adult topics, less in need of nurture and support, and significantly older than White girls of the same age. The excessive discipline Black children experience for offenses such as disruptive behavior and tantrums makes them 10 times more likely to
face discipline, retention or even incarceration later in life, reports AmericanProgress.org.

Indeed, that study and Rep. Bass are not off the mark. The recent Georgetown study found that adults saw Black girls age 5-19 years as more “independent” and that they knew more about adult topics, such as sex. This biased outlook means that adults – such as educators – had the inclination to believe Black girls need less protection and support, and more discipline.

More children being held back

In addition, research from the Council of State Governments Justice Center concluded that Black girls are at greater risk of dropping out or being held back, which in turn leads to a three-fold increase in the chances of becoming entangled in the juvenile justice system, and later, in the adult system.

The disciplinary practices being employed in school damage social-emotional and behavioral development; strip away important educational experiences; interfere with the process of identifying and addressing underlying issues; and contribute to increased family stress and burden, says the AmericanProgress.org report.

Much of the Georgetown study involved focus groups. The researchers spoke to nine focus groups with a total of about 50 Black girls and women of varied ages and in diverse regions of the country, over a year from 2017 to 2018.

“Almost all the Black girls and women we talked to said they’d experienced ‘adultification’ bias as children,” reports study co-author Jamilia Blake in a statement released with the study results. “And they overwhelmingly agreed that it led teachers and other adults to treat them more harshly and hold them to higher standards than White girls.”

‘To society we’re not innocent’

Said one of the study participants: “To society we’re not innocent. And White girls are always innocent.”

Those in the study recounted experiences that reflected how adults saw them as older than they actually were and turned situations into traumatic experiences. For example, one participant revealed an encounter with a police officer – he did not believe she was only 15.

He handcuffed her and fingerprinted her, insisting she was older and should have been carrying identification.

Others discussed as having “an attitude” or being “threatening” in school. Too often the perceived “attitude” ends up with detention or even suspension. One participant said, “They always feel like you’re talking back, but you’re not. You’re just trying to defend, like get your side across.”

According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center using data from the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Black girls in school are five times more likely to be suspended than White girls. Experts believe that what played into the adultification of Black girls is the stereotypes that people often label Black women with, such as the “angry Black woman” or “jezebel.”

Myth of ‘early maturity’

Dr. Monique W. Morris has been studying the criminalization of Black girls for years and wrote a book on the subject called “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” (2016), and she is also the founder and president of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute. She says that studies have not necessarily proven the perception that Black girls mature faster than other ethnic groups.

“Adults perceive that Black girls are older than they are… early onset of puberty for all girls is a nation trend… but it’s been in our school system for decades that educators perceive Black girls are more mature. The inclination is to be harsher, have less patience… we need to let Black girls be girls.”

She said the perception of Black girls by our education system goes beyond their minds – “Their bodies are being read in a way that is impacting them, intentionally or unintentionally.”

So, a young Black girl can get suspended for an infraction that comes from a perception of a teacher or an administrator or, currently with the presence of law enforcement on many school grounds, security personnel. This goes on her record and now she is also probably labeled as a “troublemaker.” She becomes frustrated. Her grades slip, and now the chances of her getting into a good college are fading. She ends up with a meaningless job that provides little hope for a bright future, and she may fall into trouble later on because of earlier frustrations in school. Many experts believe discriminatory patterns from school can and do lead to Black girls being funneled into the criminal justice system, and prison.

Parents, educators must work together

Morris tells Our Weekly that parents as well as the Black community need to step up and engage educators as well as Black girls.

“We need to have ways to monitor how our girls are being criminalized in our communities. Often times we talk about men and boys and don’t realize we need to address what’s happening to our girls,” Morris said.

The author and 2018 TED Women speaker says we need to develop “curriculum that responds to our young people and is inclusive to their experiences. We need advocacy to respond with programs and efforts to address their experiences and we need healing informed responses.”

Added Morris, “Parents need to advocate for schools to bring in discussion groups so the girls can have conversations about their experiences where they spend a lot of their time – in school. Communities need to think of ways to partner with girls… stand with
them when they tell their truths.”

Some of the next steps in school systems include:

  • Banning all suspension practices in pre-K and early grades.
  • Teaching conflict resolution to educators.
  • Trying alternative solutions to punishment, such as focusing on prevention, providing more support and bringing students together to solve problems on their own in small groups.
  • Hire more counselors rather than police officers.

Indicators and parental resources

Morris says that there are signs that parents can see that could indicate their girls are being “criminalized” at school. “If you get a series of calls from an educator or if your child doesn’t want to go to school, it’s time to look into it.”

She advises that parents “stay active and engage your child and the educators around her.”

But it’s not always the school’s or the teacher’s fault, Morris said. “Black girls who act out in school are usually dealing with something else going on in their life… usually with girls, it can be with sexual violence or domestic violence… and that’s not an easy conversation to have.”

But it’s clear that communication is key, not only with educators but also with parents and their children.

The National Women’s Law Center, offers the “Let Her Learn” tool kit at dignityinschools.org /resources. There is a section in Morris’ book “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools”, which offers resources and suggestions for parents of Black girls. The book is available on Amazon and has received rave reviews.

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PRESS ROOM: First Book, an Innovative Leader in Education Equity, Releases Groundbreaking Research Illustrating the Impact of COVID-19 on Emotional Wellness of Students in Underserved Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

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Nearly One Thousand Educators Participated; Report that over half (53%) of the students they serve struggle with their mental health

WASHINGTON, First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring education equity for children living in poverty, today announced the results of a national survey designed to identify emotional wellness challenges faced by school-age children. In addition to reinforcing earlier findings regarding the devastating mental health effects of COVID-19, this survey shed new light on the severity of this impact — especially in communities of need. It also established that emotional wellness issues have become a significant barrier to education for many students who attend schools in these communities – a majority of whom are children of color. Pediatric psychologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s On Our Sleeves movement for children’s mental health partnered with First Book to offer a clinical perspective on survey questions and process.

In the new survey findings, educators report that 53 percent of the students they serve struggle with their mental health and only 20 percent of educators feel prepared to support the mental well-being of their students. Of significant concern, 98 percent of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education. And notably, educators are facing their own mental health challenges. Student mental wellness issues have a ripple effect on educators who feel helpless and unsupported.

“Educators across the country are speaking out about the urgency of the mental wellness issues that their students are facing, how they don’t feel prepared to address the issues, and how those issues act as a barrier to learning. Based on what we’re hearing from our Network of educators, this is truly a crisis,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO, First Book. “First Book is committed to supporting low-income communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and the data revealed in this survey is guiding us in providing educators with high-quality, research-driven tools to nurture emotional wellness and develop healthy habits that prepare students to not only learn but thrive.”

On an ongoing basis First Book solicits input from its Network of more than 525,000 educators – all of whom serve children in need – to enable the organization to directly address the needs of practitioners and the children they serve. Mental wellness was spotlighted as a critical problem exacerbated by COVID-19, leading the organization to design focus groups and a survey to better understand the magnitude and scope of the issue, as well as what is needed to address this barrier to education. Nearly 1,000 educators responded to the survey providing startling data. The results provided a framework for the resource, which is now available, entitled: Taking Care: An Educator Guide to Healthy Habits for Student Emotional Wellness, a free resource created in collaboration with On Our Sleeves. The resource and study are now available through First Book.

“Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

According to the First Book study, the top three life circumstances or experiences that contribute to children’s mental health challenges are 1) unstable or difficult home life; 2) hunger/food insecurity and 3) isolation due to Covid-19. Because these three factors often intersect as children grapple with returning to normalcy post-pandemic, the resources First Book provides to educators are essential tools for helping them become better equipped to aid students who are still dealing with the effects of Covid-related depression, trauma, loneliness, and loss.

First Book’s findings are particularly relevant given recent warnings issued by professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association. These groups have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health and have noted that psychological strains, made worse over the past few years by pandemic-associated isolation, anxiety, fear, and grief, have caused a crisis in several societal sectors including education. They also emphasize that children in communities of color have been disproportionately impacted due to previously unresolved inequities linked to structural racism.

Additional key findings in First Book’s survey include:

  • 72% of educators say the pandemic has introduced new mental health challenges among students/children;
  • 65% of educators report the pandemic has exacerbated the existing mental health challenges students already faced;
  • 80% of educators believe gaining access to mental health support is a high or emergency priority in relation to students’ overall needs at this time;
  • 98% of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education;
  • 93% of educators became aware that a student was struggling with mental health issues due to a noticeable change in behavior;
  • 92% of educators indicated they are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources focused on promoting the general mental health and well-being of all students;
  • 51% of educators report that a student’s race/racial identity is relevant to their mental health;
  • 68% of respondents indicate that they take a child’s race and/or culture into consideration when supporting their mental well-being (e.g. observe family/cultural norms, design a culturally inclusive curriculum, and foster open and trusting relationships with their students);
  • 74% of educators are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources to help them approach mental health challenges related to race, identity, and intersectionality;
  • Older children reportedly struggle more than younger children. Educators serving middle and high school students estimate that 59% and 60% (respectively) of the students they serve struggle with mental health, while early childhood and elementary educators estimate 50% and 52% (respectively) of their students struggle.  This compares to the general population at 53%;
  • Educators in urban and suburban communities consider addressing mental health as a stronger priority (83% high/emergency priority) vs. their rural counterparts (75% high/emergency priority).

About First Book

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 29-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 525,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research-based strategies to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books. For more information about First Book, please visit http://www.firstbook.org.

About On Our Sleeves®

Children don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves. With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, we need to give them a voice. On Our Sleeves®, powered by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, aims to provide every community in America with free resources necessary for breaking child mental health stigmas and educating families and advocates, because no child or family should struggle alone.

Since the inception of On Our Sleeves® in 2018, more than 3 million people in every state across America have interacted with the movement’s free pediatric mental health educational resources at OnOurSleeves.org and educator curricula have reached more than four of five classrooms across the United States.

To schedule an interview with a spokesperson for First Book, please contact Ian Kenison at ikenison@firstbook.org.

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Moore Brown: Maryland Set to Have Two Black Statewide Officials

NNPA NEWSWIRE — If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On July 19, Wes Moore and Congressman Anthony Brown won their primary contests to be Governor of Maryland and Attorney General.

Maryland is a deep blue state that currently has a moderate Republican Governor. It is expected that Moore and Brown will have a major advantage over their Republican competitors.

If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

Moore’s main opponent was former DOJ Civil Rights chief and DNC Chair Tom Perez. Perez came in second to Moore. The results were 36 percent for Moore, 27 percent for Perez and 19 percent for Peter Franchot.

Wes Moore’s victory is verification that Black statewide candidates in states with over 20 percent of the Black vote can run and win strong campaigns.

Current Governor Larry Hogan has said publicly that he will not vote for the Republican nominee for Governor. That nominee, Dan Cox, is a supporter of Donald Trump.

“Dan Cox …is a QAnon whack job who was in favor of calling Mike Pence, my friend, a traitor, when they were talking about hanging him,” Hogan said at a news conference on July 19.

Attorney and former prosecutor Glenn Ivey defeated former Congresswoman Donna Edwards in a primary to replace Anthony Brown in Maryland’s 4th district. Ivey is all but certain to be elected to Congress in such a blue district.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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DOJ Indicts Four Police Officers Who Allegedly Lied to Secure Search Warrants for Breonna Taylor’s Home

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4. 

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, has long been insisting that Louisville police have never been at her daughter Breonna Taylor’s apartment on the night they shot her dead.

On August 4, the Department of Justice, led by the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke, announced the indictments of four police officers who fatally shot Ms. Taylor during a nighttime raid on her apartment.

They asserted that the officers lied in order to get a search warrant for Taylor’s apartment.

The Justice Department announced that the indictments against the four current and former police officers would include federal charges of using “unconstitutionally excessive force.”

“Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that people are subject to searches only when there is probable cause supporting a search warrant. Falsified warrants create unnecessary hazards for the public and for the police, who rely on facts that fellow officers report in carrying out their public duties,” Clarke added.

“These charges focus on the conduct of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Place-Based Investigations Unit. In the first indictment filed today, we allege that in early 2020, that unit was investigating suspected drug trafficking in the West End [area] of Louisville. On March 12, 2020, officers from that unit sought 5 search warrants they claimed were related to the suspected drug trafficking.  Four of those warrants targeted properties in the West End where that activity was allegedly occurring,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland before Clarke spoke.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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