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IN BRIEF

New School Discipline Data
The Government Accountability Office released a new report on school discipline disparities in K-12 schools. Among their findings: “Black girls were suspended from school at higher rates than boys of multiple racial groups and every other racial group of girls.”

The report also noted: “Officials in our five selected school districts also described what they perceived as a growing trend of behavioral challenges or provided examples related to mental health and trauma”

The U.S. Department of Education released school and district-level data on the use of school discipline. Click here to access the database and here to read a walkthrough of using the database to look at a specific school’s discipline record for the 2015-2016 school year. The data includes out-of-school suspension data disaggregated by race, gender, and disability.

“When bias drives discipline, black girls miss out on the chance to learn.”
Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman and National Women’s Law Center President Fatima Goss Graves wrote an op-ed about the importance of the 2014 school discipline guidance and their own experiences with school discipline: “When we were black girls in school, these same leadership qualities were rarely rewarded. Our assertiveness and confidence were labeled disruptive and rude. We were told to smile more, and our ‘aggressiveness’ was noted. In our youth, teachers and administrators questioned the same strengths and skills that make us leaders today.”

NWLC and 21 girls who attend D.C. schools co-wrote a report on dress code policies in D.C. schools. The report, Dresscoded: Black Girls, Bodies, and Bias in D.C. Schools, finds that “D.C. dress codes promote race and sex discrimination and pull students out of the classroom for no good reason—often through illegal suspensions.”

Teachers at Chicago’s Noble Charters schools are speaking up about school discipline policies they describe as “dehumanizing” and that include rules around hair that disproportionately impact black girls.

Monique Morris’ critical book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools is becoming a documentary.

Samantha Kobbah: “As a Black teacher, I noticed how exclusionary discipline practices quickly destroyed Black curiosity, innovation, creativity or any further attempts to challenge the status quo. One school day, I witnessed a Black girl in the first grade being served a suspension. Her ‘crime’? Voicing her frustration with the school’s ‘no talking in the hallways’ policy.”

Nekea Sanders and Sam Swantek of Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center wrote an op-ed for the Florida Times-Union about the arrest of three black girls at Duval County’s Lakeshore Middle School.

In Baton Rouge, 13-year-old Da’laysha refused to move to the back of her classroom, seeking to avoid harassment, and was expelled from middle school. “Williams thought if she deserves to get expelled from school for misbehaving, that the police officers who killed [Alton Sterling] a father of five should get in trouble, too.”

Read through the policy recommendations for school culture and discipline reform in Boston schools based on focus groups with girls of color in Boston-area schools.

Registration is open for the newly-launched Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Network for Girls of Color, a secure space for school system leaders and educators to learn about trauma-informed approaches to working with girls of color. The Learning Network is led by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute.

Juvenile Justice
In response to an investigation by The Tennessean which found a now 16-year-old girl spent months in solitary confinement at the state adult prison under the state’s Safekeeping law, Tennessee legislators have proposed a bill that would ban sending youth to state prison under the law.

In New York, solitary confinement is banned for individuals younger than 18 at federal and state-run facilities, “but for teens like Imani — held in a county jail, waiting for their cases to be heard — it’s a common practice.”

We still don’t have data on what happens to youth who are tried in adult court instead of in the juvenile justice system. The much-delayed Survey of Juveniles Charged in Adult Criminal Courts “is now several years late and in some jeopardy of becoming antiquated even if it does come out.”

The Office of Justice Programs “could see thousands of positions eliminated” raising concerns that “the cuts would prompt the agency to ‘greatly loosen enforcement’ of JJPDA compliance, especially around the disproportionate minority contact requirement.”

King County in Washington State, which recently moved juvenile justice from the purview of the Department of Corrections to the public health department, is implementing system reforms with a trauma-informed, public health approach.

Doreen St. Félix reviews the new Netflix docu-series “Girls Incarcerated” which follows fifteen girls at Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana, writing the show “rarely engages with the greater conversation about the efficacy of rehabilitative programs for juvenile women, or with the structural realities that lead to the incarceration of girls in the first place.”

Foster Care
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments regarding a class action suit on behalf of nearly 12,000 children in long-term foster care in Texas. The 2015 lower court ruling concluded that “Texas’s foster care system is broken” and that the state violated foster care youth’s “Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by the State.”

new report by Texans Care for Children finds the pregnancy rate for girls ages 13 to 17 in Texas foster care was almost five times higher than the rate for other Texas girls in that age group, and that inadequate support for pregnant youth in foster care puts babies’ and mothers’ health at risk.

A revised Texas Department of State Health Services booklet meant to educate teens on judicial bypass “is blatantly designed to mislead pregnant minors and shame those seeking abortion care.” Per state handbook rules, case managers give this booklet to pregnant youth in foster care.

Los Angeles County has reported that teens in foster care are 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant than their non-foster care peers. A public-private partnership in the county is working to “educate foster youth and knock down systemic barriers to sex education and services” through a process that “begins with listening to youth, building the capacity of service providers and public agencies and ultimately informing public opinion and changing public policy.”

The Administration for Children and Families is planning to delay the collection of new Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data on foster youth and families, including adoption rates and information on the sexual orientation of youth in foster care.

Pregnancy and Health
Linda Villarosa investigates the persistent racial disparities in maternal mortality in the New York Times Magazine through the experiences of a young black woman: “For black women in America, an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism can create a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions — including hypertension and pre-eclampsia — that lead directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death.”

New York State has announced new initiatives to address maternal mortality, including a pilot program expanding Medicaid coverage for the use of doulas.

The Trump administration is “shifting federal funding aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rates” through comprehensive sex education to programs that teach abstinence. A federal district judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of four federal grantees of the program, striking down a move to strip them of their funding. The organizations named in the lawsuit were “four of 81 total grantees whose five-year federal grants, initially set to expire in 2020, were suddenly terminated by the Trump administration in 2017.”

In Baltimore, the Healthy Teen Network also won a lawsuit challenging this funding change, with the Federal District Court ruling that the government’s decision to end Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants was “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.”

BOOKMARKS

UPCOMING

TAKE NOTE

“If I were in charge of the dress code, I would loosen it up or at least equally enforce it. Definitely allow religious things, code enforcers should not touch any students or their belongings without consent, don’t publicly embarrass anyone, let students contribute to the dress code.”

Source: Sage Grace Dolan-Sandrino, 17, quoted in the National Women’s Law Center reportDresscoded: Black Girls, Bodies, and Bias in D.C. Schools

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