A new book by scholar and activist Monique Morris chronicles the experiences of black female students, while highlighting the institutional failures that push black girls out of schools and into damaging environments. Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools presents the voices of straight, queer, and transgender girls from California, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and Boston. Their stories show how schools, rather than protecting vulnerable students, can become places of punishment and hostility.
Recent research has revealed that black female students are punished at alarming rates — even more frequently than black boys — and Pushout explores the fallout of this punitive approach to discipline. “In school, if you get in an argument with a teacher, you damn near lost,” says 15-year-old Faith, who is currently in juvenile detention. “If it’s a student and teacher, the student’s automatically in trouble.” Other students featured in the book have been in gangs, foster homes, and on the streets. Jennifer, now 16, was forced into prostitution at age 12. Her attendance became patchy, and she started fighting in school, leading to suspensions. According to Morris, schools should strive to protect, rather than punish, challenging students like Jennifer.
“It’s important for us not to see the victimization of girls as separate from what they face in school,” she writes. “We need to rethink schools as places that are critical for girls in terms of keeping them out of the criminal system in a huge way.”
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