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Rep. Pressley Launches Legislation to End School Pushout of Girls of Color

Following the Introduction of the People’s Justice Guarantee, Rep. Pressley Launches Legislation to End School Pushout of Girls of Color

WASHINGTON – Following Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s (MA-07) longstanding history of working to address issues of criminalization at the municipal level during her tenure on the Boston City Council, Congresswoman Pressley introduced the Ending Punitive, Unfair, School-based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma (P.U.S.H.O.U.T.) Act – legislation to end the punitive pushout of girls of color from schools and disrupt the school-to-confinement pathway. The Ending PUSHOUT Act acknowledges the harmful ways in which Black and Brown girls are criminalized and overpoliced at school. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), founder the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05), member of the House Education and Labor Committee, are co-leads of the bill.

“Education is the equalizer and families are the stabilizer, but too many Black and Brown families have been destabilized by violence, abuse, poverty and discrimination. Not only are our girls carrying trauma from their personal lives when they enter school, but for far too many schools have become a place that criminalizes and harms girls of color,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “The Ending PUSHOUT Act – the first bill stemming from the People’s Justice Guarantee – aims 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. As the Trump Administration actively works to roll back protections for our most vulnerable students, we must work in partnership with community to develop holistic solutions that center the lived experiences of girls of color who have been most impacted by cruel and discriminatory school policies and practices.”

Across the United States, girls of color are disproportionately likely to be suspended from school at every grade level:

  • Beginning as early as preschool, where Black girls account for 54% of all girls suspended despite being only 20% of the girls enrolled.
  • From Kindergarten to 12th grade, Black girls are 7 times more likely to be suspended from school as white girls, and 4 times more likely to be arrested at school.
  • Latina girls are more than 1.5 times as likely as white girls to receive an out of school suspension.
  • Native American girls are suspended at 3 times the rate of white girls.

 

Specifically, The Ending PUSHOUT Act:

  1. Establishes $2.5 billion in new federal grants to support states and districts that commit to ban unfair and discriminatory school discipline practices and improve school climates.
  2. Protects the Civil Rights Data Collection and strengthens the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights by investing $2.5 billion for additional enforcement and monitoring capacity.
  3. Establishes a Federal Interagency Taskforce to End the School Pushout crisis and its impact on girls of color.

To view a summary of the bill, click here.

To view the bill text, click here.

“Across the country, students of color face rampant discrimination in school—and it is having lifelong consequences. We as a society are desensitized to the pain and trauma of black girls. Black girls are suspended, expelled, and even arrested at higher rates—often due to discriminatory hair and dress policies. In my hometown of Minneapolis, black students are 41% of the student population, but make up three quarters of all suspensions. At one middle school in my district, African American students were 338% more likely to be suspended than their white peers last year,” said Congresswoman Omar. “Punitive approaches to education do not help our children get an education. I am so proud to work on this bill with Representative Ayanna Pressley to create safe and nurturing school environments—by investing in trauma-informed policies, enforcing civil rights laws, and establishing a task force to end this crisis.”

“Black and brown girls are being disciplined for expressing their trauma. They’re being disciplined for acting out unaddressed mental illness. They’re being disciplined for hairstyles deemed disruptive. They’re being disciplined for the energy, independent thinking and strength that would earn their white, male peers the label, ‘future leader.’ That discipline is not only wholly inappropriate, it’s taking these girls out of the classroom, pushing them toward the criminal justice system, and diminishing their futures. It’s got to stop,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in this fight to cut off the school to prison pipeline and ensure black and brown girls are able to use the ladder of education to reach their dreams.”

“Girls at greatest risk of experiencing school pushout are those who experience racial bias, violence, traumas and other disruptions that negatively impact their capacity to realize their potential risk as scholars,” said Dr. Monique Morris, Ed.D., author and creator of the creator of the new documentary PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. “The Ending PUSHOUT Act is an opportunity to align federal policy with research-based best practices in education which provide the conditions for schools to be locations for healing so that they can be locations for learning.”

Congresswoman Pressley has long been a champion for racial and gender justice. Last month, she introduced the People’s Justice Guarantee, a bold, progressive vision of an American legal system that actually makes good on the promise of justice for all. In July, she introduced the American Opportunity Accounts Act, legislation to close the racial wealth gap by creating savings accounts for all American children. As a Boston City Councilor, she founded and chaired the Council’s first standing committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities and launched a city-wide initiative to hear directly from girls about why they felt unsafe in school and to get their recommendations on how best to support their learning.

The Ending PUSHOUT Act is endorsed by Monique W. Morris, Ed.D., National Black Women’s Justice Institute, EveryBlackGirl, Inc., Love Your Magic, Black Swan Academy, National Women’s Law Center, YWCA USA, YWCA National Capital Area, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, GLSEN, Gwinnett SToPP, National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, National Crittenton, Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE), African American Policy Forum, National Education Association, Futures Without Violence, Alliance for Educational Justice, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, Strategies for Youth, Women’s Law Project, SPLC Action Fund, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation, Advocating 4 Kids, Inc, National Juvenile Defender Center, Black Skeptics Los Angeles and Women’s Leadership Project, Parents Across America- Guilford, Action Communication and Education Reform, Education Law Center- PA, Citizen Action of New York, S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective, New York Transgender Advocacy Group.

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  1. I am happy seeing someone making an effort to create policy and legislation that supports equitable education for all, right now it feels like it is the responsibility of schools and teachers at a local level. I hope to see this bill passed as it is clear to me that policy is required for progress. Some people want progress towards equitable education, but some people will resist without legislation. I feel this bill is a step in the right direction and I support it.

  2. As a Black woman working with Black and Brown girls in Muncie, Indiana I see a great need to help our girls continue use their voices and lift them up in life. I would love for this documentary to be shown to our families and educators. Please help me to do that.