Ayanna Pressley Reintroduces Bill to Tackle Disproportionate Punishment of Black Girls in Schools

by Yah Yah
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Rep. Ayanna Pressley has reintroduced a bill to address and ultimately end the disproportionate punishment of Black and Brown girls of color in schools.

The bill, known as Ending Punitive, Unfair, School-based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma Act or the Ending PUSHOUT Act, was first presented in 2019.

Data shows that Black girls are suspended by schools six times more than their white counterparts, according to 2018 government data.

A recent report from the National Women’s Law Center finds they are disciplined more harshly than their white peers for things like dress code violations and hairstyles.

“Our schools have got to be places and spaces for learning and growth,” Pressley said per wbur. “But for too many Black and Brown girls, interactions with racist dress code policies, hair policies [and] law enforcement in our schools has really defined their experience, and we haven’t seen these disparate punitive impacts wane during the pandemic.”

Pressley’s bill would provide schools with additional resources that include mental health, counseling and care programs as preventative measures against pushout in schools. The bill also calls for data collection under the Civil Rights Data Collection, bolsters the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and establishes a federal task force to address the crisis.

Pressley says that despite many children taking classes online due to the pandemic, the stats remain. She revealed that she was spurred into action after ProPublica published an article about a 15-year-old Black girl in Michigan who was jailed for not completing her homework when her Beverly Hills school switched to remote learning.

Judge Mary Ellen Brennan, the presiding judge of the Oakland County Family Court Division, found the teen “guilty on failure to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school” and called her a “threat to (the) community,” citing the assault and theft charges that led to her probation.

“She hasn’t fulfilled the expectation with regard to school performance,” Brennan said as she handed down the sentence. “I told her she was on thin ice and I told her that I was going to hold her to the letter, to the order, of the probation.”

Pressley says the case was just a snapshot of what really goes on in the school system.

“Thankfully, we were ultimately able to see her released, but her story is part of a larger pattern of the criminalization of Black girls for minor misbehavior at school,” she added.

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