Last Thursday, Girls Justice League tabled at the Beyond Zero Tolerance: A Community Symposium, presented by the School Discipline Advocacy Service at Temple University Beasley School of Law. Panelists and community organizations included Philadelphia Student Union, Galaei, and the ACLU of PA. It focused on a variety of experiences, but panelists specialized in areas such as disability law, legislative lobbying, academic writing, teaching in a Philadelphia Public Alternative School, and a Central High School student. They all added a range of comments and helpful insight about the state of zero tolerance policies in schools today. One thing that rarely made its way into the conversation was gender. One panelist spoke on the policing of femme bodies (particularly those of color) in school, but most of the panel spoke about more general numbers and highlighted racial disparities.
Part of the problem is that few statistics are collected on gender and race, making it hard to assert hard evidence and facts about how it impacts girls, femmes, and gender nonconforming youth. According to National Women’s Law Center, “Black girls are six times more likely to be expelled than white girls.” This is a clear example of the relationship between race, gender, and education. However, it is often overlooked in issues such as school discipline because boys of color are perceived to be the most at risk, when really ignoring the reality femmes face only exacerbates the issue. Overall, the panel was an informative and thought provoking experience. In the future, GJL hopes to continue working to make education more equitable and accessible for girls and femmes by using the knowledge gained at this panel and carrying out gender-justice lens to implement solutions learned.