Gotham Gazette Wed, 05 Aug 2020 14:03:02 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Building the School Girls Deserve in New York City building school girl

Brittany Brathwaite, the author (photo: Girls for Gender Equity)

What does the school girls deserve look like? At Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), we know cis and trans girls - and gender non-conforming youth - should go to schools that are safe places to learn, grow, and thrive. Yet, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) continues to let us down, and doing so at a time where the current presidential administration is diligently working against what needs to be done to create those institutions.

In a participatory action research project we conducted in 2017, one in three students in New York City schools reported having experienced some form of sexual harassment. Further, one in two students shared with us that they felt their gender expression and identity was being unfairly restricted by their schools.

Both of these issues can have a tremendous impact on student outcomes, with certain populations being more vulnerable than others. As Dr. Monique Morris documented in Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, black girls across the country face disproportionate and often overlooked barriers to their education and they “have become the fastest growing population to experience school suspensions and expulsions, establishing them as clear targets of punitive school discipline.”

Among those being punished? Victims of sexual violence at home and/or at school that are disciplined for ‘acting out’ in the classroom instead of receiving the support that they need to heal and young women who are punished for dress code violations due to their body type.

School is far too often a hostile space for youth that so urgently need to be welcomed and affirmed there; hostility that leads to suspensions, expulsions, arrests, and even imprisonment for some of our most vulnerable young people.

In 2016, GGE organizers, youth development experts, and young people themselves contributed to a participatory action research project focused on the disproportionate impact of gender and racially biased policies on cis and trans girls and gender non-conforming youth of color in the DOE, which is the country’s largest school district.

This work resulted in The School Girls Deserve (SGD) report, depicting the unique ways school pushout and discipline disproportionately impacts girls and TGNC youth of color. This report included 45 recommendations for New York City to improve its policies, addressing gender-specific realities that young people experience rooted in a racial and gender justice lens. We are calling on the city to take action on two of those recommendations.

First, we’re looking to the DOE to ensure equal protection for young people in public schools through the enhancement of Title IX, the civil rights law designed to prohibit sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The New York City DOE operates 1,800 public schools with a total student population of 1.1 million -- but employs just one Title IX Coordinator to support them. GGE is calling for trained Title IX Coordinators in each of the 7 DOE Field Support Offices.

Second, we’re calling for a citywide dress code that celebrates diverse cultures, body diversity, and gender expression. Girls of color and TGNC youth are disproportionately disciplined for what they wear to school. Yet, the DOE does not currently have a universal dress code policy. Girls and TGNC youth report missing out on class time because of discriminatory dress codes and unfair enforcement. Both informal and formal classroom removals cause girls and TGNC youth to lose out on opportunity to learn. GGE will work with the DOE to develop an affirming, inclusive school dress code, ensuring that schools are supportive and welcoming for all young people.

As we are fighting to see Title IX used more effectively, federal Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is looking to limit its ability to protect survivors of sexual violence. She recently unveiled a series of devastating proposed regulations that would remove Title IX protections from off-campus and online sexual harassment, as well as incidents of harassment that do not result in a student missing classes or dropping out entirely, give schools the ability to claim religious exemption from adhering to anti-sex discrimination policy, and limit investigations of abuse or harassment to cases that are reported to a Title IX official -- again, remember that New York City has just one person in such a position serving 1.1 million students and their families. Earlier this year, DeVos announced plans to remove protections for transgender students from Title IX.

This isn’t the first time - at the federal level, this administration has repeatedly demonstrated its blatant disregard for girls, women, and TGNC people. The leader of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Candace Jackson, has said that in her view, “[90% of accusations] fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ we broke up, six months later, I found myself under Title IX investigation because she decided our last sleeping together was not quite right.”  

When leadership of an agency designed to protect students’ civil rights tries to discredit the courageous people that come forward with their experiences of sexual assault, it sends a message to young people that they shouldn’t come forward and get the support that they need.  

While we are lucky to have strong protections for women and TGNC folks in New York City, our schools do not reflect that. We must make it clear to our youth that there are adults who are committed to believing and supporting students who experience sexual violence in schools. We need staff and leadership in the DOE who have the skills to shift school climate, and to ensure that schools are not reinforcing harmful messaging that is now, sadly, coming from the highest office in the land.

Brittany Brathwaite is Organizing & Innovation Manager, Girls for Gender Equity. On Twitter @urbintelligence & @ggenyc.

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Building the School Girls Deserve in New York City Thu, 13 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Pay Equity Begins with Paying Black Girls ggenyc

(photo: @GGENYC)

Today, on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, we recognize the fact that black women would have to work up to today - August 7 - to earn what the average white man earned in 2017.

The reality is that the wage gap that black women in New York City experience is even more stark - a report released this week by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer noted that black women’s earnings are so low compared to white men that New York City’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day would fall not in August, but in October.

This of course does not take into account the realities facing the incredibly nuanced experiences of the community - black trans women who face significant barriers in the workforce at every turn, immigrant black women whose labor often is in the shadows of our economy, black women who care for our children and our elders, often at very low pay and in industries that are notorious for labor violations, to name a few.

Today, we consider the existing policies, practices, and systems which prevent black women from receiving their proper remuneration. Families and communities are affected when black women are denied the appropriate pay for their work. So many households in New York City are led by black women, meaning when black women aren’t paid equitably, their children, neighbors, and communities suffer.

In recent years, thanks to the work of our partners at PowHer New York, we have made strides. Section 194 of our state labor law prohibits employers from paying employees of a different gender less for equal work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility. In New York City, employers are now banned from inquiring about salary history in the employment application process. Most recently, the City Council introduced legislation to examine the racial gender wage gap in our municipal workforce - women account for 59% of the city’s workforce and two-thirds of those women are women of color.

At Girls for Gender Equity, we know that the wage gap begins early. As a youth-serving organization that invests in the leadership of young cis and trans girls of color and gender non-conforming (GNC) youth, we know that young people of color - especially trans and GNC youth - are locked out of opportunity early on. We ensure that young people whose expertise we value to move our campaigns and organizing strategies forward are compensated for their time.

The concentration of black women in low-wage industries, unchecked workplace violations by bad actors, and employers who continue to undervalue black women’s work all contribute to the racial gender wage gap. If we consider education as a tool to help black and Latinx communities achieve pay equity, our schools can open - and close the doors of economic opportunity.

Black girls and TGNC youth are prevented from having their choice in occupations because of schools that push them out. When a black girl is told she has “too much attitude” or when she starts skipping school to avoid the humiliation of being asked to strip down everyday before going through a metal detector, she doesn’t get to pursue a career that could provide her with a comfortable living wage. Stuyvesant High School, one of the most prestigious New York City high schools, recently offered 13 slots to black students in its freshman class of 1,000. How can we expect black women and girls to be paid equitably when pathways are not created early on for them to thrive?

We say all this also recognizing that even when black women move into managerial positions in the financial sector, they are still paid less than white women and men. The wage gap in New York City is indeed a racial gender wage gap.

Today and everyday we lift up black women and their labor. It is a matter of economic and racial justice.

Ashley Sawyer, esq., is director of policy & government relations for Girls for Gender Equity. On Twitter @ACSawyerJustice & @GGENYC.

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Pay Equity Begins with Paying Black Girls Tue, 07 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000