In 2014, Mikia, then 12 years old, was accused, alongside her white friend, but the penalties they faced were strikingly different. Her friend's parents paid a restitution to the school of $100 and so their daughter was only suspended for a few days. Hutchings's family disputed the role she was accused of playing in the vandalism and said they could not pay about $100 in restitution. Mikia was then subject to a school disciplinary hearing and a visit by a uniformed officer from the local Sheriff’s Department, who served her grandmother with papers accusing Mikia of a trespassing misdemeanor and, potentially, a felony. In order to get out of being hit with these very serious criminal charges, the pre-teen had to agree to be put on probation for the summer and to do 16 hours of community service.
“What kid needs to be having a conversation with a lawyer about the right to remain silent?”
“White kids don’t have those conversations; black kids do.”
- Michael J. Tafelski, a lawyer from the Georgia Legal Services Program who represented Mikia in the school disciplinary hearing.
In Georgia, the ratio of black girls receiving suspensions in the same period compared with white girls was 5 to 1. Within minority groups, darker-skinned girls are disciplined more harshly than light-skinned ones. More here
Jessica was trafficked when she was 11. She fled abuse at home and fell into what she called "the life," with pimps who preyed on foster-care involved youth and other emotionally and financially vulnerable children for recruitment. "One of my buyers was a dean from my school," Jessica said. "He was in his 40s. I was 14 years old." She was trafficked across the nation, "from Florida to Arizona, Nevada and to K Street in Washington, D.C."
Jessica was what's known as a "commercially sexually exploited child," or CSEC. Girls of color make up at least 80 percent of CSECs, said Allison Newcombe, a fellow at The Alliance for Children's Rights.
Jane grew up in kinship care and thought college would be her "escape from poverty and violence-stricken neighborhoods."" However, her college plans were complicated when she aged out of receiving kinship care benefits and the upstate New York university in which she enrolled took family safety nets for granted.
Jane states “I had a 3.8 GPA at the end of my freshman year. But at the beginning of my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with epilepsy and began to miss a lot of classes because of uncontrollable and violent seizures,” she said. “The administration kept telling me to take a leave of absence and go home. They had no idea what going home meant to a student like me.”
For her, it meant possible homelessness or a return to never-ending poverty and violence. Summer and other extended breaks present similar challenges to students who come from economically unstable communities.
Sakinah White, a single mother of three who is an elementary school teacher in Clayton County, said her 17-year-old daughter had been treated unfairly after she was expelled from her high school over an incident in which she was accused of hitting a white male student with a book. Criminal charges were also filed in the juvenile court system.
“It’s a form of child abuse,” said Mrs White.
After a semester-long expulsion, her daughter became suicidal and began cutting herself with soda can tops. Ultimately, the criminal charges were dropped and the state board of education reversed the expulsion.
One day, when I was playing outside by myself, I was sexually abused by a group of neighborhood teenagers. I was 6 years old. I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid protective services would take me and my brother away.
If you’re a girl, there are certain blocks you don’t take because there are boys over there—you know better. No one ever stops to think maybe these boys are out of control.
In New York, as many as one in four girls will be sexually abused before age 18 and such abuse can have long-term emotional effects for victims.
In 2009, Nadiyah provided testimony to the House of Representatives.
"My name is Nadiyah Shereff. I am 23 years old. I was born in a women’s prison where my mother was locked up. When I was 2 days old I was taken from my mother and placed with my ggrandmother in San Francisco, California. I never knew my father and my mother was incarcerated my entire life.
I was raised by my grandmother who was forced to go on welfare to pay for the extra expense of caring for me. We lived in public housing also known as the projects. Every day, on my way to school, I had to navigate through drug dealers, drug addicts and poor folks looking for their next crime victim. I saw my first shooting when I was 9 years old. My house was accidentally shot into twice, luckily we were not hit. Although shootings were a regular scene where I lived, the instantaneous fear that comes when you hear a gunshot always left me and my family trembling for days and saying things like “we got to get out of these projects”. We all knew it was a very real possibility that one of us could be accidently or purposefully shot at and killed.
Over the years I witnessed countless murders, many of which were classmates and friends. This made it difficult for me to focus in school and before long I began smoking marijuana and drinking as a way to escape the daily violence.
At that time I didn’t see much of a future for myself, due in part to a lack of positive role models. The positive role models that existed at that time were not made visible to me in my neighborhood or in my school.
I attended the worst of the worst public schools complete with run-down facilities, out-dated-books, curricula that undervalued minority communities, and overall had a very low standard of excellence.
At 13, I got arrested for the first time and was charged with assault. I was taken to San Francisco's juvenile hall and began a cycle of going in and out of detention. I was locked up ten different times within a two year period. Inside juvie I met other girls like myself that were there for prostitution, assault, theft, and truancy. We were not violent girls. We were girls who were hurting. All of us were from the same neighborhoods, poor families and seemed to have the same disposition of trauma, anger mixed with hopelessness. Being confined to a tiny cement room was one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience. Being locked up all I could do was reflect on my life but it didn't seem to help. I became even more withdrawn and angry.
I felt completely disconnected from my family, from friends and the counselors inside offered no support for the real problems I was facing. I felt like nobody believed that I could actually do something positive with my life especially the staff inside the facilities, who treated me like a case number not like a person. At that time what I needed, was to talk to folks about all I had been through, to feel connected to people, to feel useful so that I could find my own direction in life. I needed to heal from the trauma and to be supported with love and encouragement."
Kristie knows what it's like to have to do her homework on the backs of cars because she doesn't have a home to go to after school's out. "I too have gone homeless," Dotson said of her youth in South Central Los Angeles. Today, she's a professor of philosophy at Michigan State University but, she said, voice shaking, "Even when you get out, there is no getting out."
Today, Dotson, the philosophy professor, has a solid career making "just enough so my family doesn't starve." "I put my family on my back," she told the room as she fought back tears. Dotson saves up for trips back to Los Angeles a couple times a year so she can, as she calls it, put out fires for her family. This latest trip home meant dealing with a rat infestation at her aunt's home. Her aunt refuses to move out, Dotson says, because she can't afford to give up her current rental rate. "She didn't tell me this, but she'd been living off of six-for-a-dollar Top ramen for the last month and sleeping on her laminate floor," Dotson told Colorlines later. Her aunt, who lived paycheck to paycheck her whole life, has very little for herself today. "[Black women] get to the point where they've raised all these kids on nothing, making ways out of no ways. And then when you're 60 years old you have no food. You have nothing."
What hurt Dotson, who was one of the last to speak in the evening, was hearing how little things have changed for girls growing up in her old neighborhood.
Dotson's family experience turns out to not be uncommon. Single black and Latino women have a median wealth of $100 and $102, respectively, while single black and Latino men have a median wealth of $7,900 and $9,730, respectively, according to the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Dotson is confounded that My Brother's Keeper could ignore this reality.
"My Brother's Keeper doesn't want to talk about the fact that those boys of color coming off those mentor programs are going to come back to these same households supported by these women of color who are struggling," said Dotson. "Does anyone care?"
For allegedly calling a white boy a “bastard”, telling him where to kiss her and using the words “damn” and “goddamn” on a school bus, Dorothy Young, then 14 years old, of Sylvester, Georgia, was confined indefinitely to a reformatory known as the Regional Youth Development Center in Sandersville, Georgia. This occurred in February of 1969.
She was the first child sent there from her county in the prior three years.
Dorothy’s sister, Yvonne, 11, was accused of using similar profane language to a white boy a year older than she and served a year’s probation. Read more of the story here
Transgendered Girl Of Color
Connecticut does not have a separate facility for girls under the age of 18. In 2014, Janet, then 16, was placed in a maximum-security facility that houses adult women convicted of the most serious crimes. Due to federal laws mandating the separation of youth and adults, she was first isolated at the facility for adult women then isolated at a secure facility for boys.
This case demonstrates how the juvenile justice system fails to adopt a developmental approach with social context and prioritizes control over treatment.
Janita relayed how administrators regularly dismiss her feelings of anxiety, despite her diagnosis of bipolar II disorder.
“My English teacher saw me go from an 85 to a 55, but she doesn’t bat an eye,” she said.
“She thinks I’m just another stereotypical Black girl working through excuses and expecting everything to be handed to her. ‘Everybody has anxiety,’ she says.
Limited resources are being used for responses to behavior that contribute to the over-policing of schools. For example, New York City Public Schools employs 5,400 school police officers, but only 3,000 guidance counselors and 1,500 social workers.
Sarah had been repeatedly bullied through elementary and middle school. One day in 2013, she applied perfume in her 7th grade math class after other students accused her of “smelling bad.” This led to more teasing from her classmates, frustrating Sarah’s teacher who was trying to keep the class focused on their work. Sarah was sent to the office where she was ticketed for Disruption of Class and sent home from school.
Tanisha speaks of facing long nights while in solitary confinement when she was incarcerated in juvenile detention after getting arrested in school and picking up multiple truancy tickets. In solitary, a child could theoretically be safe from other kids, Tanisha said, "But you weren't safe from yourself." Without books or writing materials, "the nights were endless."
Black girls made up 43 percent of all girls arrested for assault and battery by Los Angeles school police in 2013, said Ruth Cusick, an attorney at Public Counsel.