Black Girls Overrepresented in Confinement and Court Placement

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by Monique Morris

Nationwide, African American girls continue to be disproportionately over-represented among girls in confinement and court-ordered residential placements. They are also significantly over-represented among girls who experience exclusionary discipline, such as out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and other punishment. Studies have shown that Black female disengagement from school partially results from racial injustices as well as their status as girls, forming disciplinary patterns that reflect horrendously misinformed and stereotypical perceptions.

While academic underperformance and zero tolerance policies are certainly critical components of pathways to confinement, a closer examination reveals that Black girls may also be criminalized for qualities long associated with their survival. For example, being "loud" or "defiant" are infractions potentially leading to subjective reprimanding or exclusionary discipline. But historically, these characteristics can exemplify their responses to the effects of racism, sexism, and classism.

More than 42,000 youth were educated in "juvenile court schools" located in California correctional and detention facilities in 2012, according to the California Department of Education, and a disproportionate number of them were Black girls. In the state's 10 largest districts by enrollment, Black females experience school suspension at rates that far surpass their female counterparts of other racial and ethnic groups. Little has been shared about these girls' educational histories and experiences inside the state's juvenile correctional facilities or out in the community.

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