Hi This is Oscar Cielos Staton with your precast on Educating African American Girls. Our talk on March 9th will provide more insight and a deeper perspective than this humble male Honduran immigrant can provide. But nonetheless it is my goal today to get you to start thinking more on this topic and preparing your questions for our upcoming talk.

I ask what about black girls here because awareness (justifiably so) is growing on the racial disparities facing people of color in U.S. education and efforts are being made in some communities to lift up students of color BUT there is less awareness on girls of color specifically.

Before I go on, let me just say that for the sake of brevity, I’m aware I’m throwing around simple terms like white and black, while there is more complexity than that in the definition.  I apologize in advance if it offends anyone as that is definitely NOT the goal here.  In addition, I’m focusing only on the African American plight here even though my Hispanic Americans are also facing similar challenges.  I want to address this on a separate show. I also want to address the challenges all minorities face in public education in future shows.

Let’s get back to the African American girls!

According to the research, black male students are most frequently suspended and likely to receive harsh punishments at school disproportionally. BUT there is a bigger disparity in punishment between black and white girls than the disparity between black and white boys. In fact, black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Black boys, on the other hand, are three times more likely to be suspended than white boys.

You hear the outcry for mentoring and programs for African American students across the country. It’s necessary when we know suspensions and expulsion from school are related to long term consequences like involvement in the criminal justice system, and not the good kind of involvement. But intervention formulated so far may help address racial or cultural particularities but is it specific about gender?

A very important piece of this topic is the study by Columbia University law professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, Prisciall Ocen and Jyoti Nanda. It says:

“If the challenges facing girls of color are to be addressed, then research and policy frameworks must move beyond the notion that all of the youth of color who are in crisis are boys, and that the concerns of white girls are indistinguishable from those of girls of color.”

They go on to say “…much of the existing research literature excludes girls from the analysis, leading many stakeholders to infer that girls of color are not also at risk.”

 The study goes deep into the findings made from looking at New York City and Boston and the achievement gaps and harsher forms of discipline for students of color. They go into the zero tolerance environments where discipline is prioritized over educational attainment.

NPR’s Code Switch interview with Ms. Crenshaw and the article “These Are the Barriers Black Girls Face in School” are also helpful reads in preparing for our Wednesday talk.

What we need to do moving forward is find creative and tangible ways to promote awareness of the challenges black girls are facing in school, as well as find solutions that promote understanding.   Many are suggested in the readings but I’m also interested in hearing from school leaders on the ground throughout the U.S. as well as the parents and mostly stories from African American girls themselves.

What are your specific experiences? What have you witnessed in schools? What are the challenges facing your community? Join us for the talk and leave us your comments here! We want to hear from you!

Posted by Oscar Cielos Staton

Oscar Cielos Staton began his teaching career in 1998 while continuing his passion for film production in Texas. He quickly developed an affinity for working with low socioeconomic Hispanic families. "The lives of my students," he says "very much mirror the life I once had as an immigrant in this country in a public elementary school. Actually, I tell them they are lucky because they have other students similar to them in the same classroom. My experience was that of a true minority in the classroom. Only one other student in my class spoke Spanish!" As a teacher, he established himself as someone in touch with the student experience. Nowadays Oscar continues his educational journey with the Teach Cow website and his podcast Teachers Talk Live, which brings together teachers from all over the world for talks on K-12 Education.

2 Comments

  1. Good morning, Oscar, I admire your commitment to your vision of creating these speaking and learning venues that I pray will be eye opening and world changing.. I’m hoping to plug in to listen if I can. I’ll check to ensure that I have the details as to how to do so.

    In the meantime, I wanted to give a little insight as this topic is one that I am passionate about. As a Caribbean woman of color who migrated to the US at the early age of 3 – raised as a black woman in America by Jamaican parents- I can say that African-American girls struggle to find images that celebrate our natural beauty , intelligence, independence, resilience, and strength.

    As you know, society has defined “beauty” within depictions of women with light skin and straight hair. Our strength is misinterpreted as us having an “attitude” or being sassy or too vocal. Author and lecturer, bell hooks, speaks about this in length in her books and articles on black feminist theory.

    To say it lightly, less than classy images are presented before our young girls can even speak through images and storylines in fairytales and cartoons and even our dolls – not to mention reality shows that paint a false reality for our girls. Barbie is a perfect example.

    Behaviorists and psychologists – after decades of study and research – have found that there is a psychology of adolescence specific to African-Americans and to our African-American girls. Self-hatred is a key facet of our path to self-actualization and that is not always overcome by our girls if they do not have the role models and father figures to teach them about self-respect and self-love. If our girls do not have role-models or positive father figures, then this creates communities of fatherless girls who are having babies for MEN because they are starving for the love that they never received from their fathers.

    When I was a classroom teacher, through the years I had to enhance my existing curriculum by writing curriculum for my middle school, high school, and elementary students that included black women that they could admire – ones that have made a real difference in this world. Admirable characters, rather than the woman that are depicted in many texts and media as jezebels or objects of desire.

    Immersion of this curriculum along with continued affirmations (various types that I now teach teachers how to incorporate in their daily routine) and a continued focus on strengths to build confidence caused me to be blessed with the 2005 NJ Milken Educator Award. I received state and national recognition for these efforts because they changed how students viewed themselves and in turn increased classroom performance and ultimately test scores. In fact, my so-called underperforming students often outperformed the “gifted” students – showing educators and the state that all students are indeed gifted. My urban students performed in the 95 percentile year after year.

    As a consultant, I continue to teach these methods through instructional coaching and mentoring and through professional development that helps to shift mindsets and assist teachers and school leaders in enhancing their existing curriculum without compromising national standards or mandates.

    For the children, Camile
    CoyabaConsulting@gmail.com
    http://www.CoyabaConsulting.com

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  2. […] On Episode 16, we are talking about African American girls in K12 education and particularly the alarming findings by Kimberly Williams Crenshaw and associates in the study “Black Girls Matter” and what we can do to make their situation better…really so they can thrive in school.  Before this live talk, Oscar Cielos Staton recorded this important precast to the upcoming show, whi… […]

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