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  • When I was in the sixth grade, I got into a fight at school.

  • It wasn't the first time I'd been in a fight,

  • but it was the first time one happened at school.

  • It was with a boy who was about a foot taller than me,

  • who was physically stronger than me

  • and who'd been taunting me for weeks.

  • One day in PE, he stepped on my shoe and refused to apologize.

  • So, filled with anger, I grabbed him and I threw him to the ground.

  • I'd had some previous judo training.

  • (Laughter)

  • Our fight lasted less than two minutes,

  • but it was a perfect reflection of the hurricane

  • that was building inside of me

  • as a young survivor of sexual assault

  • and as a girl who was grappling with abandonment

  • and exposure to violence in other spaces in my life.

  • I was fighting him,

  • but I was also fighting the men and boys that had assaulted my body

  • and the culture that told me I had to be silent about it.

  • A teacher broke up the fight

  • and my principal called me in her office.

  • But she didn't say, "Monique, what's wrong with you?"

  • She gave me a moment to collect my breath

  • and asked, "What happened?"

  • The educators working with me led with empathy.

  • They knew me.

  • They knew I loved to read, they knew I loved to draw,

  • they knew I adored Prince.

  • And they used that information to help me understand

  • why my actions, and those of my classmate, were disruptive

  • to the learning community they were leading.

  • They didn't place me on suspension;

  • they didn't call the police.

  • My fight didn't keep me from going to school the next day.

  • It didn't keep me from graduating; it didn't keep me from teaching.

  • But unfortunately, that's not a story that's shared by many black girls

  • in the US and around the world today.

  • We're living through a crisis in which black girls

  • are being disproportionately pushed away from schools ---

  • not because of an imminent threat they pose to the safety of a school,

  • but because they're often experiencing schools

  • as locations for punishment and marginalization.

  • That's something that I hear from black girls around the country.

  • But it's not insurmountable.

  • We can shift this narrative.

  • Let's start with some data.

  • According to a National Black Women's Justice Institute analysis

  • of civil rights data

  • collected by the US Department of Education,

  • black girls are the only group of girls who are overrepresented

  • along the entire continuum of discipline in schools.

  • That doesn't mean that other girls aren't experiencing exclusionary discipline

  • and it doesn't mean that other girls aren't overrepresented

  • at other parts along that continuum.

  • But black girls are the only group of girls

  • who are overrepresented all along the way.

  • Black girls are seven times more likely than their white counterparts

  • to experience one or more out-of-school suspensions

  • and they're nearly three times more likely than their white and Latinx counterparts

  • to be referred to the juvenile court.

  • A recent study by the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality

  • partially explained why this disparity is taking place

  • when they confirmed that black girls experience

  • a specific type of age compression,

  • where they're seen as more adult-like than their white peers.

  • Among other things, the study found

  • that people perceive black girls to need less nurturing,

  • less protection, to know more about sex

  • and to be more independent than their white peers.

  • The study also found

  • that the perception disparity begins when girls are as young as five years old.

  • And that this perception and the disparity increases over time

  • and peaks when girls are between the ages of 10 and 14.

  • This is not without consequence.

  • Believing that a girl is older than she is can lead to harsher treatment,

  • immediate censure when she makes a mistake

  • and victim blaming when she's harmed.

  • It can also lead a girl to think that something is wrong with her,

  • rather than the conditions in which she finds herself.

  • Black girls are routinely seen as too loud, too aggressive,

  • too angry, too visible.

  • Qualities that are often measured in relation to nonblack girls

  • and which don't take into consideration what's going on in this girl's life

  • or her cultural norms.

  • And it's not just in the US.

  • In South Africa,

  • black girls at the Pretoria Girls High School

  • were discouraged from attending school with their hair in its natural state,

  • without chemical processing.

  • What did those girls do?

  • They protested.

  • And it was a beautiful thing to see the global community for the most part

  • wrap its arms around girls as they stood in their truths.

  • But there were those who saw them as disruptive,

  • largely because they dared to ask the question,

  • "Where can we be black if we can't be black in Africa?"

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • It's a good question.

  • Around the world,

  • black girls are grappling with this question.

  • And around the world,

  • black girls are struggling to be seen, working to be free

  • and fighting to be included

  • in the landscape of promise that a safe space to learn provides.

  • In the US, little girls, just past their toddler years,

  • are being arrested in classrooms for having a tantrum.

  • Middle school girls are being turned away from school

  • because of the way they wear their hair naturally

  • or because of the way the clothes fit their bodies.

  • High school girls are experiencing violence

  • at the hands of police officers in schools.

  • Where can black girls be black without reprimand or punishment?

  • And it's not just these incidents.

  • In my work as a researcher and educator,

  • I've had an opportunity to work with girls like Stacy,

  • a girl who I profile in my book "Pushout,"

  • who struggles with her participation in violence.

  • She bypasses the neuroscientific and structural analyses

  • that science has to offer

  • about how her adverse childhood experiences inform

  • why she's participating in violence

  • and goes straight to describing herself as a "problem child"

  • largely because that's the language that educators were using

  • as they routinely suspended her.

  • But here's the thing.

  • Disconnection and the internalization of harm grow stronger in isolation.

  • So when girls get in trouble, we shouldn't be pushing them away,

  • we should be bringing them in closer.

  • Education is a critical protective factor

  • against contact with the criminal legal system.

  • So we should be building out policies and practices

  • that keep girls connected to their learning,

  • rather than pushing them away from it.

  • It's one of the reasons I like to say that education is freedom work.

  • When girls feel safe, they can learn.

  • When they don't feel safe, they fight,

  • they protest, they argue, they flee, they freeze.

  • The human brain is wired to protect us when we feel a threat.

  • And so long as school feels like a threat,

  • or part of the tapestry of harm in a girl's life,

  • she'll be inclined to resist.

  • But when schools become locations for healing,

  • they can also become locations for learning.

  • So what does this mean for a school to become a location for healing?

  • Well, for one thing, it means that we have to immediately discontinue

  • the policies and practices that target black girls for their hairstyles or dress.

  • (Applause)

  • Let's focus on how and what a girl learns

  • rather than policing her body in ways that facilitate rape culture

  • or punish children for the conditions in which they were born.

  • This is where parents and the community of concerned adults can enter this work.

  • Start a conversation with the school

  • and encourage them to address their dress code

  • and other conduct-related policies as a collaborative project,

  • with parents and students,

  • so as to intentionally avoid bias and discrimination.

  • Keep in mind, though,

  • that some of the practices that harm black girls most are unwritten.

  • So we have to continue to do the deep, internal work to address the biases

  • that inform how, when and whether we see black girls for who they actually are,

  • or what we've been told they are.

  • Volunteer at a school

  • and establish culturally competent and gender responsive discussion groups

  • with black girls, Latinas, indigenous girls

  • and other students who experience marginalization in schools

  • to give them a safe space

  • to process their identities and experiences in schools.

  • And if schools are to become locations for healing,

  • we have to remove police officers

  • and increase the number of counselors in schools.

  • (Applause)

  • Education is freedom work.

  • And whatever our point of entry is, we all have to be freedom fighters.

  • The good news is that there are schools

  • that are actively working to establish themselves

  • as locations for girls to see themselves as sacred and loved.

  • The Columbus City Prep School for Girls in Columbus, Ohio, is an example of this.

  • They became an example the moment their principal declared

  • that they were no longer going to punish girls for having "a bad attitude."

  • In addition to building --

  • Essentially, what they did is they built out a robust continuum

  • of alternatives to suspension, expulsion and arrest.

  • In addition to establishing a restorative justice program,

  • they improved their student and teacher relationships

  • by ensuring that every girl has at least one adult on campus

  • that she can go to when she's in a moment of crisis.

  • They built out spaces along the corridors of the school and in classrooms

  • for girls to regroup, if they need a minute to do so.

  • And they established an advisory program that provides girls with an opportunity

  • to start every single day with the promotion of self-worth,

  • communication skills and goal setting.

  • At this school,

  • they're trying to respond to a girl's adverse childhood experiences

  • rather than ignore them.

  • They bring them in closer; they don't push them away.

  • And as a result, their truancy and suspension rates have improved,

  • and girls are arriving at school increasingly ready to learn

  • because they know the teachers there care about them.

  • That matters.

  • Schools that integrate the arts and sports into their curriculum

  • or that are building out tranformative programming,

  • such as restorative justice, mindfulness and meditation,

  • are providing an opportunity for girls to repair their relationships with others,

  • but also with themselves.

  • Responding to the lived, complex and historical trauma

  • that our students face

  • requires all of us who believe in the promise of children and adolescents

  • to build relationships, learning materials,

  • human and financial resources and other tools

  • that provide children with an opportunity to heal, so that they can learn.

  • Our schools should be places where we respond to our most vulnerable girls

  • as essential to the creation of a positive school culture.

  • Our ability to see her promise should be at its sharpest

  • when she's in the throws of poverty and addiction;

  • when she's reeling from having been sex-trafficked

  • or survived other forms of violence;

  • when she's at her loudest,

  • or her quietest.

  • We should be able to support her intellectual

  • and social-emotional well-being

  • whether her shorts reach her knees or stop mid-thigh or higher.

  • It might seem like a tall order in a world

  • so deeply entrenched in the politics of fear

  • to radically imagine schools as locations where girls can heal and thrive,

  • but we have to be bold enough to set this as our intention.

  • If we commit to this notion of education as freedom work,

  • we can shift educational conditions

  • so that no girl, even the most vulnerable among us,

  • will get pushed out of school.

  • And that's a win for all of us.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

When I was in the sixth grade, I got into a fight at school.

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B1 US TED black girl violence continuum suspension

【TED】Monique W. Morris: Why black girls are targeted for punishment at school -- and how to change that (Why black girls are targeted for punishment at school -- and how to change that | Monique W. Morris)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2019/02/05
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