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  • Writer's pictureNBWJI

The CROWN Act and the Link Between Black Hair, School Discipline, and Criminalization of Black Girls

For Black girls, schools are often places where their physical, psychological, and emotional safety and wellbeing are under assault. Compared to white students,

  • Black girls are more likely to be punished in school for subjective behaviors, including hairstyles and dress.

  • Black girls are more likely to report their schools are less caring and more unequal than their white peers.

  • Black girls of all ages, from pre-K to high school, are more likely to experience informal and formal discipline in schools, including suspensions, expulsions, and arrests on campus.

This type of school treatment and discipline puts Black girls at heightened risk of disengaging from and being pushed out of school and is a pathway to juvenile legal system contact and confinement for Black girls.

This is why the CROWN Act is about so much more than hair. The CROWN Act, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would prohibit race-based discrimination because of one’s hair—such as denial of employment or educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles commonly worn by Black people, including braids, locs, twists, or bantu knots. First introduced at the state level in California, CROWN Act legislation is now law in almost a dozen states across the country.

This is especially important for Black girls in school. We’ve seen, again and again, Black students punished simply for wearing natural hairstyles. This federal CROWN Act legislation is an important step to end school pushout for Black girls and to end the systemic criminalization and punishment of Black girls in schools.

NBWJI is working to dismantle pathways to criminalization and transform schools

The National Black Women’s Justice Institute is committed to dismantling pathways to criminalization and confinement for Black women and girls. Transforming our schools into safe and healing-centered spaces where Black girls and gender-expansive youth can develop, grow, and thrive is critical in that work.

Toward that end, to rebuild schools into the spaces that Black girls deserve, NBWJI:

  • Co-leads the Trauma-Informed Learning Network for Girls of Color, which educates and supports a network of educators committed to instituting gender-responsive, culturally-affirming, and trauma-informed practices in their classrooms and schools.

  • Evaluated EMERGE, a promising education model designed to dismantle existing pathways to school disengagement and confinement and instead build pathways to college and careers for Black girls and other girls of color who have been involved in the juvenile-legal or foster care systems.

  • Is partnering with the Title IX Office in a large urban school district in the midwest to help it implement healing-centered responses to gender-based violence, particularly for Black girls and gender expansive youth.


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