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Black girls say they’re ‘routinely subjected to racism’ by students, teachers in Philly schools

A new report from a legal advocacy group notes that black girls in Philadelphia’s public schools say they are “routinely subjected to racism from fellow students, teachers, and school administrators.”

According to Chalkbeat Philadelphia, this is one of the “overarching themes” of the Education Law Center report “We Need Supportive Spaces That Celebrate Us: Black Girls Speak Out About Public Schools.”

The ELC spoke with 20 black girls — who identify as “cis-gender, gender-expansive, transgender, and non-binary” — in city public and charter schools at the 6-12 grade level range, including some “juvenile justice facilities.”

“The students described being subjected to racial slurs, being singled out for discipline because of their race and gender, and a lack of access to appropriate support and resources,” according to the Chalkbeat story.

The ELC’s Paige Joki said her organization focused on this specific demographic because they’re “‘uniquely harmed’ by various prejudices and inequities in society, and […] often get ignored by research and data-based studies.”

While neither Chalkbeat nor the ELC report note any specific examples of teachers or administrators directing racial slurs at black females, these officials are culpable for inaction when fellow students use such epithets, “discriminatory discipline on the basis of their race and gender such as in the context of dress and grooming codes” and use of “harmful curriculum and teaching practices.”

MORE: Professors survey 17 black women and conclude academia struggles with ‘racial violence’

The ELC report recommends eight steps to combat the racism that black girls says they deal with in school:

— Schools need to hire, retain, and support more Black teachers, administrators, and staff
— Black girls need access to supportive and affirming adults at school
— Schools must implement culturally responsive and affirming curriculum
–Dress and grooming codes, if used, must be fair and inclusive and must affirm students’ cultural and gender expression
— Schools must provide culturally affirming mental health supports and increase the number of school-based mental health providers who have shared lived experiences and identities with Black girls
— Police should be removed from schools
— Schools need sufficient resources to fully educate Black girls and support their academic success
— Schools must adequately respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Regarding the removal of cops from school buildings, Joki said this is “in line with research showing that Black girls are more likely to be arrested or get in trouble at school than white girls.”

Sharif El-Mekki, founder of the Center for Black Educator Development and former school principal who says “talking about race, class, and privilege [is a] natural conversation” for him, noted that school district policies which lay off newer hires first tend to disproportionately affect minority teachers.

MORE: Students of color: White girls wearing hoop earrings oppress and exploit Latina, Black women

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