Suspended Development

By Zerline Hughes


It’s probabably irresponsible of me to write about something when I don’t know all the details. Especially when the story has come from my 11-year-old daughter, but …

So what I’ll do is simply write what I know – via her version – and then offer a factoid or two and leave it at that. Cool?

So, what had happened was my daughter said “it went down” at her school yesterday.

One of her 5th grade girlfriends was fighting another 5th grade girlfriend in the hallway at school. Meanwhile, and related, she thinks, there was some craziness over texting during school, likely some inappropriate messages, or maybe something akin to bullying.

Whatever the case the girl SAYS seven girls were suspended. Seven! That’s a third of her classroom. Oh, and they were all African American. Always a disparity. It’s happening too often. Deserved or not.

Her school is in upper Northwest Washington, D.C. Many of us African Americans don’t live in the boundary of the school but we were astute enough to participate in the DC Public Schools out of boundary lottery because the schools in our neighborhoods don’t fit our needs, are low performing, and our neighborhood school was closed two years ago because of the latter.

As a result, many of us African Americans, in addition to several White families who appreciate our school’s diversity, location and early childhood program, are able to attend, if lucky. But there’s many changes afoot to decrease the number of out of boundary families, and I’ve even heard firsthand that neighborhood parents would appreciate if families attended their in boundary schools. They say that the school system should simply fix the conditions at neighborhood schools so out-of-boundary students don’t take away spots from families who live in the neighborhood of the better performing schools.

Soooo … when my daughter’s heresay was relayed to me, I just thought, hmph!

We have school security, but not official school police. I’m glad to know they weren’t brought into the situation, though, I don’t have any proof, other than what my daughter told me. But I am disappointed that her account reports that seven of the girls were suspended. There had to be some alternative, at least for the young ladies not actually involved in the altercation. But again, I don’t know the details. I just know that seven Black girls are not at school today – on the 100th day of school, unable to be there for the school’s annual celebration promoting school spirit and attendance.

Back in my day when a “friend” delivered to the school counselor a note from the trash authored by me that stated I was going to beat up a girl afterschool, my mother smartly required that I “do my time” during in-house suspension. I actually had to wake up early andtake the school bus just to sit for eight hours in the detention room. It was grueling. It taught me a lesson. And I was still at school, relegated to do work.

These seven young ladies on said suspension – what are they doing? Did they sleep in? Lucky. Did they have time for a hot breakfast or their favorite cereal? Nice. Are they all at home talking on the phone or texting each other all day about being bored? Fun. Are they alone because their parents still had to go to work? Ugh. One thing we do know: they’re not in school so they’re not learning.

Let’s not forget, they’re in 5th grade! C’mon!

But again, I have no details or facts. But how about this for facts: “every year in the U.S. an estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults and a disproportionate number of these children are African American. While African American youth represent 16% of the overall population between the ages of 11 and 18, they comprise 37% of those arrested, 58% of youth prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system and are nine times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence,” according to the NAACP.

Yes – these stats are much more serious than suspension, but it starts with suspension. And once kids go to middle school in many jurisdictions, they are surrounded by school police which can handle anything from a bullying text to a cafeteria fight. Further, the NAACP reports, there is a “disproportionate percentage of school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African American and Hispanic youth represent more than 70% of those arrested or referred to law enforcement from school.”

So today, instead of being the 8th of nine beautiful Black girls in her class, it’s just her and another. And it’s gonna’ be so apparent and obvious to the other kids in her class. And for my daughter, it may, in fact, be awkward. And to the others, it’s going to send a message. Not necessarily a message of “if you don’t follow the rules, you’ll have to pay,” but more so, “Black girls are bad, violent and don’t deserve to be at school.”

P.S. I’m just glad my daughter is on punishment for always forgetting her glasses at home and has not had the use of her cell phone for a week.


5 thoughts on “Suspended Development

  1. Wow! I am just shocked by the severe punishment. Is this the customary stance public schools take in DC? While I am sure the parents of the students are disappointed in the children’s action, I wonder if any recourse can they take to advocate for the children. I so agree and sense some imbalance going on here…..

  2. Pingback: Update: Time to Suspend Kids from Social Media | Not These Two

  3. Pingback: Is it Just Me or is that Racist? | Not These Two

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