Event to highlight rates of school discipline among black girls


KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kentwood organization is teaming up with educators, community leaders and juvenile court supervisors to shine a light on the increased discipline rates young black girls face in school.

Monday, Wedgwood’s Manassah Project will host a virtual screening and “Blue Table Talk” discussion to cover the subject from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Statistically, black girls nationwide are disciplined at a much higher rate than their white peers in school.

“If we keep evicting them, we are pushing them onto the streets,” said Wedgwood Manassah project coordinator Nakeidra Battle-Debarge.

During the virtual event, a documentary titled “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” will be shown to take a closer look at how young girls are viewed in educational justice settings. The film is about various forms of discipline black girls receive from being kicked out of class to referrals to law enforcement and even suspension and expulsion.

The film and discussion will show prejudice against girls of color and how it relates to their vulnerability to violence. Many attribute the unnecessary punishments to reasons other than the girls’ misbehavior. The treatment reflects the fact that black girls are judged more harshly.


In Michigan, they are eight times more likely to be arrested than white girls, according to a state-by-state analysis led by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We just want to emphasize that. It’s a difficult conversation. Racing is a tough conversation and just because we don’t have that conversation doesn’t mean it’s going away,” Battle-Debarge said. “The video is very compelling. I think it’s going to create a buzz and really challenge people.

The school-to-prison pipeline is always a big concern. Now the impact she has on the girls is increasing.

“Juvenile Court was set up to help young men because of the population that came to the court’s attention, but over the last five to 10 years the female population has increased dramatically. That’s why the girls’ court was created because we didn’t have any girl-specific resources available to help these young women who caught our eye,” said Marcel Moralez-Morris, supervisor of juvenile probation at the 17th Circuit Court Family Division, which has worked in the field for over 20 years.

A number of services are available in the probation department for girls going through the system. There are mental health services and the Girls’ Courts program which provides treatment, incentives and community support to help reduce offending and improve their education and general well-being.

Moralez-Morris believes the reality is that if girls are continually expelled from school, they become vulnerable and become victims of abuse, trafficking and exploitation.

“This subject has been important in our court for a very long time,” she said. “We have a committee which is a partnership with a school of justice. We are working closely with school district leaders to resolve these issues. »


Wedgwood partnered with another organization, Solutions to End Exploitation, to address this issue with school administrators and staff from the Kent County Middle School District.

The district received a $1.5 million Human Trafficking Prevention Education Demonstration Program grant in October 2020 to begin prevention education in schools.

“We are the root of where things happen. If we deport the children, where do they go? What are they doing? What are they exposed to? Brooke Davis, director of diversity, inclusion and mental health services at Kenowa Hills Public Schools, said.

Davis thinks the starting point for keeping black girls off the streets is making sure administrators understand the students they serve and the biases they hold.

She is working with a team that is compiling data and looking at subject numbers to figure out what the next steps are for their schools.

While national statistics suggest black girls are suspended at a higher rate than white girls, that’s not a problem in Kenowa Hills public schools.

“What I can say is that we serve our students of color more. It’s the ones sent in by the counselors, sent in by our child life specialists,” Davis said. “It’s not a bad thing. This leads me to believe that we have work to do around this population.

Davis and Moralez-Morris will join other women leaders from across the community for the “Blue Table Talk” to discuss the film and how the education sector can better serve girls of color.

Battle-Debarge has already received a great response and hopes community members will join the conversation to create a better environment for marginalized youth.

“As long as we continue to perpetuate violence against them or fail to identify them as young people at risk, we are not doing our due diligence to protect them,” she said. “A lot of them have had some kind of trauma and the trauma is different for different people. So if you’re not able to recognize that, you’ll be looking at the behavior in relation to what happened to that individual who would create the behavior it exhibits.

This event is free, but registration is required to receive the Zoom link to join the virtual screening and discussion. Click here record.

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