WATCH: White House Tackles Disproportionate Suspension Rates for Girls of Color

By Sameer Rao Sep 19, 2016

Incidents like the #AssaultAtSpringValley showcase a willingness, embedded in structual oppression and education policy, to treat Black girls as if they are problems to be managed. The White House Council on Women and Girls—in conjunction with the Department of Education, The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and The National Crittenton Foundation—seeks to addressing that issue today (September 19) via a conference titled "Trauma-Informed Approaches in School: Supporting Girls of Color and Rethinking Discipline."

The daylong conference began this morning and was livestreamed via the White House’s official YouTube account. While morning sessions have yet to be put into their own video, you can tune into the last session—featuring remarks from Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta—above.

In addition, the White House released two resources today that address the institutional barriers and structural violence experienced by young women of color in schools. The first is a fact sheet with links to documents and communities pledging school policy reforms that emphasize trauma-based approaches (that is, those that foreground an individual’s specific traumas, both personal and historical, while working with them). The second, "Safe Place to Learn," is an interactive toolkit for school administrators and staff to help them better respond to sexual harrassment among students.

The conference and accompanying materials reflect earlier overtures by federal agencies to better address the disproportionately high suspension rate for girls of colors, student sexual assault and school resource officer deployment. Senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett discussed the criminalization of young women of color in the toolkit:

Part of our work is to realize that, when faced with student behavior that stems from traumatic experiences—and sometimes, even the experiences themselves, such as sex trafficking—society’s response has too often been the criminalization of students. This is particularly true for girls of color. But we also know that with appropriate supports and intervention, all students—including young women of color—can overcome childhood trauma and succeed.