Today, The Education Trust (Ed Trust) and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) are proud to release a new guide titled “. . . and they cared: How to Create Better, Safer Learning Environments for Girls of Color” to help school, district, and state leaders rethink school safety. Authored by Kayla Patrick, Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, and Nancy Duchesneau, this guide comes as schools and districts across the nation are developing and debating plans for how to ensure safety in the era of COVID-19.
For many girls of color, in particular Black girls, school discipline and safety has traditionally been more about criminalizing their behavior than supporting their learning and growth. Contrary to the belief that exclusionary discipline policies make schools safer, the guide shows that when schools have high rates of exclusion for minor offenses, students and teachers more often report feeling unsafe or unsupported in their learning environment. When policymakers and educators intentionally focus on understanding discipline data and purposefully work alongside students and families to adjust policies in equitable ways, exclusionary discipline incidences decrease and school safety increases.
This guide contains actionable steps on how to improve school climate for Black and Brown girls, grounded in student voices and informed by real-world examples, and couples research findings with in-depth looks at two districts and one state that have made notable progress in addressing the disproportionality of student discipline and school climate outcomes. Our goal is to support educators and advocates in cultivating a positive, anti-racist and anti-sexist school culture by shifting from exclusionary discipline to more inclusive, student-informed, proactive school safety measures. We look forward to working with you all to achieve that goal.