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Good News for Black Girls and Women in NYC: Mayor de Blasio Takes First Steps to End Stop-and-Frisk

Last Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City announced that the City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, in its current incarnation, will soon be a thing of the past. This is excellent news: the policy, which allowed police officers to detain, question, and frisk pedestrians on the street, was declared unconstitutional by federal district court last year in light of its disproportionate impact on people of color.

In his announcement, Mayor de Blasio noted that the policy “has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.” It has also unfairly targeted women in the same demographic. Given the potentially invasive nature of a police search and pat-down, many women who were stopped likened the experience to sexual harassment. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for not only taking the steps necessary to end Stop-and-Frisk, but also for acknowledging the program’s problematic racial elements. Still, it is important that women and girls of color are not erased when we talk about police misconduct and discipline. Read more »

4th Graders Can't Fight Poverty Alone

The word poverty is being thrown around a lot this week as many of us pause to reflect on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty. But poverty is a tough concept to really wrap your head around. When I was teaching 4th grade in a public school in rural Louisiana I spent much of my time attempting to understand the realities of a life in deep poverty, and problem solving alongside my students and their families as they struggled to live from day to day.

Today there are many programs serving children and families living in poverty. Each program has different beginnings – most of them rooted in supports born out of the War on Poverty, each has evolved in its own way, each has its champions, each has its critics, but at the end of the day these supports help “my kids” and their families survive. There’s lots of data out there (much of it from my colleagues here at NWLC) that shows X families depend on Y program. But behind these numbers are real people—like my brilliant, resilient, stubborn, inventive kids – and they depend on these programs. I’ve changed their names below—but these are real stories. Read more »

PBS Documentary “The Graduates”

What did you do with your daylight savings extra hour on Sunday?

I watched “Girls,” the first segment of a two-part PBS documentary called “The Graduates.” The documentary explores challenges in education today through the eyes of six Latino students from across the United States. The second segment, “Boys” aired Monday night on PBS. The first segment, which aired last week, told the story of three Latinas; the obstacles they faced and the barriers they have overcome.

Stephanie Alvarado is the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants. Her parents moved to the U.S. to escape civil war violence in El Salvador, and were met with violence on the South Side of Chicago. Stephanie fought through the distractions, became accustomed to the metal detectors at school, and is now a good student, outspoken activist, and community volunteer. Read more »

Introduction of DC’s “Title IX Athletic Equity Act of 2013” Shows that Data Matters

Yesterday I got to see how local government can provide tools to help fight for a level playing field in athletics. Together with the Sankofa Project, the Center was proud to be recognized for their work on a bill introduced by D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie with unanimous Council support.

The proposed legislation would require D.C. public schools to disclose certain key athletics equity data by gender on an annual basis, such as

  • enrollment and sports participation numbers by gender and race;
  • coach-to-athlete ratios;
  • compensation, qualifications and duties of coaches;
  • funding sources and spending;
  • scheduling and post-season play;
  • training and academic support; and
  • quality of facilities and equipment.

Under the bill, all of this information would be required to be publicly available on the city’s website. Read more »

Standing With Tiana

Here at the National Women’s Law Center, we hear stories about problematic school policies all the time. But this story out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is particularly egregious: a charter school’s policy around hairstyles left seven-year-old Tiana Parker feeling alienated and her father with no choice but to transfer her to a new school.

Tiana Parker was sent home from Deborah Brown Community School due to her dreadlocks.  According to the school’s policy, “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable” because they might “distract” students.  It’s not clear to me why dreadlocks and afros are considered “faddish” – these are common natural hairstyles in the black community that have been worn for centuries.  What is clear to me is that this school may need some education about the federal laws prohibiting programs that receive federal funding from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin – Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  And let’s not forget Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.  Read more »