Take Another Look at the Ways Schools Police Gender Norms
A message from PNY President Ronna Brown, published originally in the New York PhilanthroPost Weekly December 1, 2016 edition.
Philanthropy New York’s Education Working Group has frequently examined how schools – both in the City and across the nation – pursue discipline policies that disproportionately punish Black and Latino students and set back their education.
What is less frequently discussed in education circles is how often gender – and the expectations of how girls are “supposed to act” – effects who is disciplined and how severely.
First the facts: Black girls are disproportionately represented across the discipline spectrum. For instance, they are suspended six times more frequently than white girls (while black boys are suspended three times more often than white boys). This reality is often overlooked because girls’ overall numbers in the discipline statistics are relatively small. The conversation in education and justice circles has often centered on young men’s experiences in the school-to-prison pipeline. In fact, the racial disparity is greater among girls than across all students, and girls’ experiences are lost when the conversation is just about boys and young men.
And what kinds of girls are punished? Girls who talk back? Girls who act aggressively? Girls who don’t fit gender normative expectations of compliance and passivity?
On December 13, a program developed jointly by PNY’s Education Working Group and Funders of Women and Girls titled “School Discipline, Pushout and Gender Norms” will look at the facts on suspensions, expulsions and arrests – and what types of students end up on the receiving end of gender norm policing in schools.
We have experienced a much greater awareness of school pushout in the past 15 to 20 years, but it has been primarily identified as a pattern of exclusionary practices that prevent students from obtaining a high school diploma, including more overt disciplinary policies and practices mostly affecting boys of color, as they make up the majority of students affected. But, recent work has called very necessary attention to the unique experiences of girls, teen mothers and LGBT youth in schools, who are subjected to a special set of behavioral expectations that are enforced by schools.
Even if you are not an education funder but work in other programmatic areas that serve young women of color, this is a program that will present valuable new ways of thinking about gender, societal expectations, institutional policies that embrace intersectional diversity and new practices to understand the needs of all young people.
I hope you will join us on December 13.