Significant mental health concerns that students experience is often connected to pressure they feel to succeed academically – pressure which is further pronounced for first-generation students.
A report from Massachusetts Appleseed, July 2022
“I always get comments like ‘Why do you look mad?’, ‘Why so serious?’ But like, you don’t know me and you never will so don’t assume anything about me. Just because I look the way I look doesn’t mean I’m aggressive.”
This community-led research study explores how racialized and gendered stereotyping, disconnection with teachers and curriculum, and a void of mental health supports create unique barriers and hostile school environments where girls of color are targeted for unjust discipline. Discriminatory and punitive school discipline removes girls of color from their learning environments, disrupts their academic and personal growth, and denies them the same opportunities to achieve their ambitions and build healthy, successful futures as their peers. This disparate treatment perpetuates systemic racial inequities, deepens the institutional trauma experienced by communities of color, and causes long-term harm in the lives of girls of color – in addition to losing valuable class time, girls feel pressure to take up less space and silence themselves.
Through legislative solutions that dismantle harmful policies and create a culture shift away from punitive discipline, increased investment in practices that prioritize student well-being and inclusion, and centering student voices, we can eradicate the racial and gender-based disparities fueling the school-to-prison pipeline and ensure girls of color are seen, safe, understood, and able to thrive in their classrooms.
Our thanks to research advisors from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Kassie Infante and Rebecca Horowitz-Willis, and Massachusetts Appleseed interns Molly April, Zeia Fawaz, Alexandra Goodley-Espinosa, Maya McCann, and Catherine Michaels. Thank you as well to pro bono partners Edgeworth Analytics and Law Office 09 at Northeastern University School of Law. Enormous and special thanks to the members of our Community Advisory Board who gave their time, talents, and expertise to make this report what it is: Falynne Correia, Samantha Grady, Nusy Hassan, Rania Henriquez, Caiana Luse, Chelsea Marrero, Cleopatra Mavhunga, Adrienne Ramcharan, Hema Sarang-Sieminski, Ivanna Solano, Moriah Wiggins, and Jalissa Brown, Thora Henry, and Qai Hinds, who are members of the high school Class of 2024 and Class of 2023. To the young women and girls whose experiences inform this report: we are endlessly grateful for your courage and generosity in sharing your stories, your truths, and your powerful ideas about how to change school environments for the better.
Community Advisory Board
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