Essence: Pressley Tackles 'School-To-Confinement Pathway' With New Bill

December 5, 2019
In The News

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass), announced the first bill stemming from her sweeping The People’s Justice Guarantee resolution—which she unveiled last month—and she’s addressing the “school-to-confinement pathway,” most commonly known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which disproportionately targets Black, Latinx, and Indigenous children.

The Ending Punitive, Unfair, School-Based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma (PUSHOUT) Act aims to stop racist, excessive, and discriminatory punitive acts that “criminalize Black and brown students, push them out of school and exacerbate the school to prison pipeline,” according to a press release from Pressley’s team.

The bill offers “incentives to states and schools that commit to ban most suspensions and expulsions, as well as corporal punishment and the physical restraint of students,” The Intercept reports. Additionally, the bill would establish $2.5 billion in new federal grants for schools that agree to “rewrite their discipline policies and include students, families, and communities in the process.”

Schools would also have to center their approach to student accountability in restorative practices and trauma-informed approaches, investing in counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals, rather than police officers, according to the Intercept.

Pressley is closely focused on the pushout of Black girls, which she has spent her career calling out.

“Too frequently justice is denied for Black and Brown girls,” she said while hosting the world premiere of PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference last week in Washington, D.C.

PUSHOUT is the vision of director Jacoba Atlas, Dr. Monique W. Morris, author of the 2018 book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, and executive producer Denise Pines.

“I began working on these issues while in the Boston City Council,” Pressley told ESSENCE after the screening. “Now as a Congresswoman, I am focused on disrupting discriminatory policies that criminalize Black girls and perpetuate the growing school-to-confinement pipeline.”

According to the National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI), Black girls and other girls of color experience discriminatory, disparate, punitive, and unfair treatment in schools. Black girls are suspended, expelled, referred to law enforcement and arrested on school campuses at rates that far exceed the public school population as a whole, and that far exceeds their white peers.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who co-sponsors the Ending PUSHOUT Act, tweeted: “Black and brown girls are told that their hairstyles are “distracting.” That their behavior is “disruptive.” That they don’t belong in school.”

“I’m proud to co-sponsor @AyannaPressley’s Ending PUSHOUT Act to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Our girls deserve better.”