Q&A With Monique W. Morris: How K-12 Schools Push Out Black Girls
As a researcher and author working at the intersection of education, civil rights, and juvenile and social justice, Monique W. Morris has long studied the issues women of color face in the United States. She is co-founder and president of the National Black Women's Justice Institute—a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that works to improve racial and gender disparities in the criminal justice system for black women. Morris previously served as a vice president for economic programs, advocacy, and research at the NAACP. She and Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, are currently partnering in a two-year project to improve the relationships between girls of color and school resource officers.
Her latest research sheds a light on the treatment of black girls in K-12 schools. In her fourth book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (New Press, 2016), Morris takes a closer look at the educational policies, practices, and conditions in U.S. schools that marginalize black girls both academically and socially as early, she argues, as pre-K. In the book, Morris unpacks the racial and gendered stereotypes that affect how schools respond to black girls on a daily basis.
Recent studies from the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights show that many current disciplinary measures end up barring these young students from schools at higher rates than those for any other female student group and most male groups, which puts them at greater risk of entering the juvenile justice system. Morris frames this research around the stories of girls she spoke with across the country who experienced "pushout"—defined as the practices that foster criminalization in schools and how this criminalization leads to imprisonment—to expose what she says are the untold stories of the conditions that remain a barrier to black girls' education and well-being.
Commentary Associate Kate Stoltzfus interviewed Monique W. Morris by phone to discuss why young black girls are disproportionately pushed out of schools and how educators and policymakers can join forces with their communities to create school environments that allow all black girls to thrive in the classroom.
EW: Black girls are 16 percent of the female student population in public schools in the United States but more than one-third of all female school-based arrests, according to 2011-12 data from the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights. The disparities between how schools discipline black female students and all other female student groups, as well as many male groups, start as early as preschool. How do we begin to make sense of this polarizing gap?
MORRIS: One of the things I've been sharing in this conversation about school pushout Q&A With Monique W. Morris: How K-12 Schools Push Out Black Girls - Education Week: