I remember learning about inequality in math class back in the day. I’m sure you remember too—the lessons usually involved Pac-Man—and the terms “greater than” and “less than”.
I encountered mathematical inequalities again when I taught them to my third graders. But since becoming a part of the team at the National Women’s Law Center, I’ve learned a lot about the other types of inequality in schools. Unfortunately, it’s no math lesson—and too many African American girls are on the “less than” side of it.
Today, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a complaint against Georgia’s Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School (WWCHS) and Wilkes County Schools for violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects students from sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. The complaint alleges that WWCHS is violating Title IX in a number of ways, such as excluding pregnant students from receiving homebound instruction services made available to students with other medical conditions, and refusing to excuse pregnancy-related absences.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s regional Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta, details the discrimination experienced by Mikelia Seals, a WWCHS student who was pregnant during the 2013-2014 school year. Mikelia was seven months pregnant when her doctor told her she needed to go on bed rest because she was at risk of premature delivery. Mikelia and her mother then asked Mikelia’s guidance counselor for homebound instruction. The guidance counselor told Mikelia that WWCHS doesn’t provide homebound instruction services (not true). So Mikelia did the best she could with the work she got from her individual teachers – that is, until the principal told her she would not get any credit for that work or for the semester because she had exceeded the allowable number of unexcused absences. She never had the chance to finish the semester and never received a report card. The new school year starts in a couple of weeks and she is worried that she will not be able to graduate in Spring 2015 as scheduled. She hopes to go to nursing school after she graduates. Read more »
I remember the first time my parents told me about Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that declared racially segregated schools “inherently unequal.” My parents celebrated the decision, for redefining education opportunities in this country, for upending the racial caste system that had been constitutionally enshrined to that point, and for the opportunities that it provided for my family. It was the framework from which I learned about the civil rights movement, about women’s rights, and about social justice more broadly.
It is impossible to overstate Brown’s importance—itoutlined the promise of an equal education as a foundation for an equal society. And it meant that the next generation of children in the Goss family could choose where to go to school, though note that the Knoxville Board of Education fought that point for another decade. Read more »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »