Locating Black Girls in Educational Policy Discourse: Implications for the Every Student Succeeds Act
by Venus Evans-Winters, Dorothy E. Hines, Allania Moore & Teresa Lawrence Jones - 2018
The enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 by President Barack Obama increased accountability requirements and was designed to reduce achievement and opportunity gaps, and racial disproportionality in school discipline. Despite the implementation of ESSA, Black girls still continue to experience hypercriminalization and policing, and when disaggregated by race and gender, they still receive the highest rates of disciplinary punishments in school and out of school. In this article, we discuss how Black girls in the Pk–12 public school system are invalidated and ignored in educational policy discourse and in school reform. In our discussion, we argue that ESSA tends to focus on identity categories (such as race, gender, class, and linguistics), and not on the intersectionality thereof, or how race does not operate as a silo (race, gender, social class, and other parts of our identity are layered and form a mosaic). We draw from literature on Black girls, zero tolerance, and critical race feminism to examine Black girls’ disciplinary punishments in Chicago Public Schools, and ESSA’s effect on a national scale. In our analysis of quantitative data from Chicago Public Schools, we find that, in the third largest district in the United States, Black girls are disproportionally the recipients of out-of-school suspensions. Black female students received 78% of all female out-of-school suspensions during the 2016–2017 school year. A majority of the actions that Black girls were punished for were minor in nature and not due to violence or criminal offenses. We find that when Black girls are made invisible during the policy process and made visible when they are recipients of bias punishments, they will be more susceptible to receiving hyperpunitive disciplinary outcomes. Therefore, this article recommends that schools, policy makers, and researchers examine how harsh discipline and exclusionary policies affect Black girls as racialized and gendered beings while not ignoring the needs of Black female students during the school reform process.
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