Congresswomen Introduce Bill to Curb Disciplinary Actions against ‘Girls of Color’ in Schools

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley speaks last June. Photo by John Tlumacki/Globe Staff(metro)

By Mia Machado 

WASHINGTON, DC — Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has teamed up with Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman and Ilhan Omar to re-introduce the Ending “PUSHOUT” Act, a bill aimed at ending the “punitive pushout of girls of color from schools and disrupt[ing] the school-to-confinement pathway.”

The Ending Punitive, Unfair, School-based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma (Ending PUSHOUT) Act  was originally introduced in Congress in Dec. 2019.

The bill acknowledges “the harmful ways in which Black and brown girls are criminalized and over policed at school,” and looks to invest in safe and nurturing environments for all students– especially girls of color.

The Ending PUSHOUT Act is informed by Rep. Pressley’s comprehensive and decarceration-focused resolution, People’s Justice Guarantee, that she developed in close partnership with other activists, advocates, and “those most impacted by criminal and racial injustice.”

The Ending PUSHOUT Act is intended to dismantle the school-to-confinement pathway by “establishing trauma-informed policies in schools and creating an ecosystem within our schools where all girls can heal and thrive.”

Rep. Pressley asserts that the education of Black and brown students across the country is often disrupted due to discriminatory discipline policies that “criminalize and push them out of school.” Black girls face suspension, expulsion, and school campus arrests at disproportionately higher rates than white girls.

As a result of unfair hair and dress code policies, along with “a lack of understanding of the historical, social and economic inequities–such as poverty, trauma, hunger, and violence– that often impact student behavior,” Black girls, girls of color, and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to these types of exclusionary school discipline policies, the authors note.

This type of discriminatory and adverse treatment “can have long-term effects on the safety, wellbeing, and academic success of all students,” Rep. Pressley explains.

Rep. Pressley, in keeping with her long standing history of working to address issues of criminalization, supports the PUSHOUT Act under the belief that we must “dismantle all systems of oppression, including the discriminatory policies that criminalize adolescent behavior and disproportionately impact girls of color.

Rep. Coleman, a co-author of the bill, shared similar sentiments expressing that she was “proud to join [her] colleagues in this fight to cut off the school to prison pipeline and ensure Black and brown girls stay in the classroom.”

Rep. Coleman criticized how Black and brown girls are “being disciplined for expressing trauma at a time when so many Black and brown children have lost loved ones to a pandemic that has devastated their communities.”

They are “being disciplined for the energy, independent thinking and strength that would earn their white, male peers the label, ‘future leader,’” she added.

Rep. Omar, sharing the same pride for her collaboration on the Ending PUSHOUT Act, shared some troubling statistics about her hometown, Minneapolis. Despite accounting for 41 percent of the student population, Black students make up three quarters of all suspensions.

At one middle school in Rep. Omar’s district, “African American students are 338 percent more likely to be suspended than their white peers, according to the most recent data,” she explained.

The Ending PUSHOUT Act will work to end these racial disparities in schools by doing three things.

The bill will establish $2.5 billion in new federal grants to support states and schools that commit to ban unfair and discriminatory school discipline practices and improve school climates.

It will also protect the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) and strengthen the Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

Lastly, the bill will establish a Federal Interagency Taskforce to End School Pushout and examine its disproportionate impact on girls of color.

Mia Machado is a junior at UC Davis, currently majoring in Political Science-Public Service and minoring in Luso-Brazilian studies. She is originally from Berkeley, California

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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