School suspensions, whether in or out of school, occur at disproportionate levels for children of color. The school-to-prison pipeline is most often discussed in terms of how school suspensions affect young boys of color, but girls are not immune.
A 2018 study by Education Trust New York showed the Buffalo Public Schools had the highest rate of suspensions among the four largest school districts in the state and those suspensions are also negatively affecting young Black and Brown girls.
The City of Buffalo School District has been working to develop progressive methods of discipline while at the same time providing support for its most vulnerable students.
This week at West Hertel Academy, the district provided workshop sessions around the documentary Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, based on the book of the same name by Monique Morris.
Cassandra Wright is the District Associate Superintendent in the Office of School Leadership. She said girls have long been left out of the school to prison discussion.
“Clearly I have my biases as a Black woman,” she said. “However the conversation is just beginning. There is data that proves that Black girls are being marginalized at greater proportions than are Black males. The problem is neither one of those statistics are good.”
Wright said misunderstandings between teacher and student often lead to punitive measures being taken by the teacher.
“Our girls, simply because of who they are culturally, come into schools and may demonstrate their emotions in a way that are completely acceptable at home,” she said. “But because of the cultural divide between the teacher and the child, those very normal and acceptable behaviors are seen as inappropriate and aggressive.”
Wright and Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Initiatives Associate Superintendent Dr. Fatima Morrell said the district is working on providing mediating factors for children to know their behavior has consequences. Morrell said this includes restorative practices in classrooms instead of suspensions and mentoring programs like Uncrowned Queens and Big Sister/Little Sister.