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Dr. Monique Morris Discusses Why Schools Should Be Centers of Healing for Black Girls  

Dr. Monique Morris Discusses Why Schools Should Be Centers of Healing for Black Girls  

“Let us begin to think about this work of education not as a work of discipline, not as a work of punishment, but as a work of freedom,” says Dr. Monique Morris who spoke at the USD Copley Library’s Mother Hill Reading Room on Feb. 25 during Black History Month.

The audience of students, faculty, administrators, and community members listened closely as Morris spoke about her experiences researching young Black girls and the school system. 

Dr. Morris is an author, activist, and advocate of women of color and black girls everywhere who face criminalization due to the misunderstanding and narrow stereotypes historically placed on them by society. 

Morris is passionate about seeing Black girls succeed in every aspect of life, especially in school. She makes this well known in her new book “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools,” where she presents research on the disturbing statistics of Black girls who are disproportionately punished and pushed out of institutions of learning.

The book tells of the experiences of Black girls across the country whose intricate lives are highly judged and misunderstood by teachers, administrators, and the justice system and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish.

Morris’ research sheds light on the overrepresentation of Black girls who are experiencing exclusionary discipline in school. Statistics show that between the 2013 and 2015 academic years, there was a slight decline in school suspensions overall, however, there were more in-school suspensions for Black girls. And, while the number of white and Latina girls arrested on campus continued to decline, according to Morris, the number of Black girls arrested on campus increased. She said, Black girls are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to experience a suspension where Black boys are three times more likely to experience suspension than white boys.

The phrase “school-to-prison pipeline” is often associated with young Black boys. Similarly, Morris calls the phenomenon happening to Black girls in the education system “school-to-confinement pathways.” This includes what happens in an educational environment that place Black girls at risk of contact with the juvenile court or criminal legal system. 

When asked why she primarily focuses her research on Black girls, Morris explained that “Oftentimes, Black girls’ truths and lived experiences are obscured by a dominant narrative that has rendered them invisible in conversations about justice.”  

As a way to create a space where Black girls can feel safe and accepted, Morris challenged the audience — regardless of gender, race, or religion — to recognize the issue and find ways to create a space for Black girls to simply be. To be accepted as themselves, to be heard, and to be protected. She challenged everyone to begin to think of this education work as “freedom work,” and “the classroom as a place for healing.”

Lecture host, USD Dean of University Libraries Theresa S. Byrd, EdD, said Dr. Morris’ appearance on campus was part of the Libraries’ annual Black History Month collaboration with the San Diego Central Library.

"We planned tonight's talk as a way to promote town/gown interaction and provide a space for the USD and San Diego communities to spend an evening together at a lecture featuring a timely and provocative book by a Black female author," Dr. Byrd said. 

— Destiny Matthews ’19

Dr. Monique Morris, center, appeared at USD's Copley Library to discuss her new book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. on Feb. 25.Dr. Monique Morris, center, appeared at USD's Copley Library to discuss her new book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. on Feb. 25.

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