International Day of the Girl; racist, sexist perceptions

International Day of the Girl; racist, sexist perceptions

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In 2011, the United Nations declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl Child, in order “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”

The movement was sparked by members of School Girls Unite, an organization of youth leaders advocating for the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Following their lead, President Barack Obama proclaimed Oct. 10 Day of the Girl in 2013, writing:

“Over the past few decades, the global community has made great progress in increasing opportunity and equality for women and girls, but far too many girls face futures limited by violence, social norms, educational barriers, and even national law. On International Day of the Girl, we stand firm in the belief that all men and women are created equal, and we advance the vision of a world where girls and boys look to the future with the same sense of promise and possibility.”

In a 2016 op-ed, First Lady Michelle Obama wrote that the issue of gender equity is not just a matter of policy; it is personal.

“Unlike so many girls around the world, we have a voice. That’s why, particularly on this International Day of the Girl, I ask that you use yours to help these girls get the education they deserve. They’re counting on us, and I have no intention of letting them down.  I plan to keep working on their behalf, not just for the rest of my time as First Lady, but for the rest of my life.”

Staying true to her promise, on Oct. 11, Obama and TODAY held a special event on 30 Rockefeller Plaza to “empower and celebrate girls all over the world.” Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor are slated to perform.

The visibility of the event is powerful; still, it cannot, and must not, overshadow the lived experiences of Black girls who, too often, are victimized, criminalized, and erased.

In 2014, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps facing Black boys. In response, over 250 Black men and other men of color challenged Obama’s decision to focus solely on Black men and boys, and called for the inclusion of Black women and girls, stating in an open letter: “MBK, in its current iteration, solely collects social data on Black men and boys. What might we find out about the scope, depth and history of our structural impediments, if we also required the collection of targeted data for Black women and girls?

“If the denunciation of male privilege, sexism and rape culture is not at the center of our quest for racial justice, then we have endorsed a position of benign neglect towards the challenges that girls and women face that undermine their well-being and the well-being of the community as a whole.”

The African American Policy Forum, founded by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, co-author of Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, and Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, amplified the letter and spearheaded the ‘Why We Can’t Wait’ campaign, which flowed from the reality that “any program purporting to uplift the lives of youth of color cannot narrow its focus exclusively on just half of the community.”

Specifically, for Black girls in the United States, the intractable scourge of white supremacy stains every corner of their lives; meaning they must battle misogynoir on both institutional and interpersonal levels at every turn.

In the study Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girlhood (pdf), co-authored by Rebecca Epstein, Jamilia J. Blake, and Thalia Gonzalez, the answers of survey participants provided anecdotal evidence of how dehumanized Black girls are in this country. According to participants:

  • Black girls need less nurturing
  • Black girls need less protection
  • Black girls need to be supported less
  • Black girls need to be comforted less
  • Black girls are more independent
  • Black girls know more about adult topics
  • Black girls know more about sex

While the above racist and sexist perceptions are false, the institutionalized and systemic ramifications of such dangerous thinking are very real, with Black girls suffering the consequences.

Black girls are suspended and expelled from school more often than boys; Black girls are also 20% more likely to be detained than white girls their age.

According to the 2015 report “Gender Justice: System-Level Juvenile Justice Reform for Girls” (pdf), 84 percent of girls in the juvenile-detention system have experienced family violence; additionally, “[girls] in the justice system have experienced abuse, violence, adversity and deprivation across many of the domains of their lives—family, peers, intimate partners and community.”

Black girls are also less likely to receive any pain medication—and if they do receive it, it is less than their white counterparts.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that lower income women experience some of the highest rates of sexual violence. Black girls—and boys—live in the bottom fifth of the national income distribution, compared to just over one in ten white children, the Brookings Institute reports. And where there is Black poverty, there is police violence—with sexual violence being the second highest form of reported police brutality—and the state occupation of communities.

As Melissa Harris-Perry wrote in 2016, “Girlhood has never been a shield against the brutality of white supremacy.”

Still, we rise. Our Black girls are full of promise. They are leaders and scholars, artists and writers, singers and athletes.

But even if they were none of these things, they have the unassailable right to dignity, safety, love and joy, free of the burdens and pain this nation has piled on their backs.

This article originally appeared on The Defender Network.

Former HISD superintendent blasts district

Former HISD superintendent blasts district

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Former Houston ISD superintendent Richard Carranza is speaking out about his disappointment in HISD’s failure to pass major reforms while he was here. Carranza, who now leads the New York public school system after abruptly quitting HISD, said the district lacked the appetite for changes that would boost outcomes for lower-income and minority students.

“As soon as I left, it seemed like people just didn’t have the stomach to take the fight,” Carranza said.

In an interview with Atlantic Magazine, Carranza who was with the district for 18 months, said HISD leaders resisted changes that would benefit historically underserved students, creating inequitable access to quality education among students from all backgrounds.

The Atlantic article largely focused on his immediate reform efforts in New York City, but Carranza didn’t mince words as he talked about HISD’s current campus funding model and the geographic layout of its magnet schools, which he said have favored students from more affluent and white backgrounds. In the months before his departure from HISD, Carranza proposed shifting toward a more centralized funding model that largely would benefit schools in lower-income and predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

“You would think if you want to integrate schools and really provide a robust push for the entire system, you would place some really sexy magnet schools in those African-American neighborhoods. No! They were all concentrated in white, upper-middle-class neighborhoods, so that if you’re an African-American student, you have to leave your neighborhood to go to those programs,” he said.

Carranza’s comments cut to key questions about the district’s dedication to impoverished and minority students, while also raising the specter that Carranza’s abrupt departure contributed to the proposals stalling. During his tenure the district dealt with

Ultimately, HISD trustees tweaked the district’s current campus funding model and shelved the magnet proposals, to Carranza’s dismay. However, it is arguable whether trustees resisted Carranza’s proposal because they “didn’t have the stomach to take the fight.” Some trustees embraced Carranza’s proposal, but others thought the district administration was moving too hastily and did not provide enough details about the proposal’s merits.

“Carranza didn’t leave any definite plans on the table. Only ideals,” HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said. “For me, there were conceptual changes that were never fully vetted or fleshed out by the administration.”

The district also was dealing with a large budget deficit and a looming threat of a state takeover of the school system resulting from a state law that required the Texas Education Agency to control operations of any school district in which one or more schools failed to meet state academic standards for five consecutive years, prompting a few trustees to question whether HISD was tackling too much at one time.

Teacher warns HISD could lower teachers’ expected salaries during upcoming year

Teacher warns HISD could lower teachers’ expected salaries during upcoming year

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Is cash-strapped HISD decreasing teacher salaries for the upcoming school year? That’s that claim one teacher is making in a viral Facebook post that’s racked up more than 18,000 views and 700 shares.

Victor Treviño III, the teacher behind the video, feels like the current fight over teacher pay is déjà vu of a similar battle in 2016.

Treviño says he’s most upset the plan’s reportedly been in the works since March, but he only recently found out about it after being tipped off by a concerned HISD employee.

“Obviously teachers, we don’t get into this profession to become millionaires, but at the same time, we don’t want to be undervalued. We don’t want to be exploited,” said Treviño, who’s taught at Austin High School in southeast Houston for 11 years.

In a now-viral video, Treviño warns the district is planning to lower teachers’ expected salaries in the upcoming school year, while at the same time, he says, adding high-level, high salary administration jobs.

“If you really care about students’ achievement, we need to be able to attract and retain the most highly qualified teachers in those classrooms,” said Treviño, who wants HISD to scrap the idea and also begin a new superintendent search.

“That draft of the salary schedule freezes salaries at their current level,” said Andy Dewey, Executive Vice President of the Houston Federation of Teachers, the union for HISD teachers. “Nobody would get less money next year.”

However, Dewey says if that draft proposal is adopted, those employees will not make what they expected to make based on the current salary schedule.

“That’s where Victor is saying the pay cut is coming from, the fact that they are not getting the amount of money that was promised them for next year,” Dewey said.

Dewey says if the board approves freezing salaries, that change would come after the July 13 deadline for teachers to resign and potentially find higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

“Frankly, I believe if HISD tries to do that after the resignation date, they’ll be in breach of contract,” he said.

Dewey says union officials will meet with district higher-ups on Aug. 2 during their monthly consultation. He hopes officials will back off the proposal.

KHOU requested an interview with HISD officials Thursday and emailed several questions, including whether the draft proposal was still under consideration and how long it’s been in the works. In response, HISD sent the following statement:

“Teachers will not see a pay decrease in their salaries for the 2018-2019 school year.”

HISD thanks Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for Harvey efforts

HISD thanks Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for Harvey efforts

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This week, HISD joined with more than 20,000 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated to publicly thank them for donating thousands of dollars to district students and staff in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

During Houston’s time of devastation, Alpha Kappa Alpha — one of the oldest African-American and Greek letter organizations — provided thousands of dollars in donations, as well as clothes, shoes, nonperishable food items, toiletries, and school supplies that were distributed districtwide to those impacted by the storm.

Members of local chapters also volunteered at donation sites and distribution centers across the city.

“The members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. immediately came to our aid following Hurricane Harvey,” said HISD Board of Education Trustee Wanda Adams, who served as board president during the storm. “The international president of the sorority, Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, sent out a notice to her members asking them to direct aid and support to HISD students. The ladies answered in a big way by donating countless supplies and resources.”

Adams joined with Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Trustee Jolanda Jones and Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan on Monday to present a resolution of appreciation to the organization during their 68th annual Boule. The Boule — the largest of its kind in the country — is an annual international conference that provides women with networking opportunities, leadership training, and development. It was held at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

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Kamala Harris helps get millions for HBCUs

Kamala Harris helps get millions for HBCUs

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California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris knows that higher learning at the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities requires higher funding. Harris has been a longtime advocate for HBCUs, helping to push through a funding increase that would put millions into these schools.

A 14 percent increase in federal funding was included in the Senate’s omnibus spending bill, elevating the amount for HBCUs from $244.7 million in fiscal year 2017 to $279.6 million in fiscal year 2018, the LA Sentinel reported Wednesday.

“HBCUs are critical to the foundation of our higher education system, and provide opportunities for some of the nation’s most promising and deserving students”, Harris, an HBCU alumnus of Howard University, said. “I am pleased funds in this bipartisan budget agreement will be invested in the future of these young people. Ensuring HBCUs have the federal support and resources they need to thrive for generations to come is one of my top priorities as a proud HBCU graduate.”

As part of the Senate bill, historically Black graduate institutions will also receive a 14-percent funding increase, from $63.3 million to $72.3 million. Also, other majority-Black institutions will receive a raise from $9.9 million to $11.4 million. Bag secured!

Harris, along with Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones, requested the HBCU funding increase in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Twelve of their Senate colleagues supported their letter, according to the Sentinel.

HBCU presidents and other officials have been fighting for more funding to keep the doors open to their campuses. Several historically Black colleges and universities have had to operate under the threats of low funding, decrease enrollment, lacking academic programs and even closure. Therefore, the funding increase spurred by Harris and other senators is a great step forward for helping HBCUs.

These schools also contribute billions to states through their economic impact and by helping to generate jobs, two more reasons for the government to keep HBCUs strong.

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#NationalWalkOutDay: Students walked out across the country

#NationalWalkOutDay: Students walked out across the country

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A lot people describe the younger generation as wayward and self-absorbed. But if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see that they’re picking up the mantel in ways that the adults in power have not.

There are several examples of this but perhaps none stronger than what high school students across the country did today. At 10 am. students took 17 minutes to show solidarity for the 17 students killed during the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They were pushing for increased gun legislation—just something to ensure their safety when they’re trying to get an education.

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Golden State Warriors Skip White House, Take Students To African American Museum Instead

Golden State Warriors Skip White House, Take Students To African American Museum Instead

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On Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors took Washington, D.C., area students to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to celebrate the basketball team’s 2017 NBA Finals win.

Shooting guard Klay Thompson spoke to the media about the team’s choice after their Monday night win against the New York Knicks.

“The White House is a great honor, but there are some other circumstances that we felt uncomfortable going,” Thompson said. “We’re not going to politicize anything. We’re going to hang out with some kids, and take them to the African American Museum, and hopefully teach them some things we learned along the way.”

It’s customary for NBA Finals champions to visit the White House. But after the Warriors’ win in June, many players made it clear that they did not want to go because they disagreed with President Donald Trump’s politics. In September, star point guard Stephen Curry shared his views on a possible White House visit with USA Today.

“We don’t stand for basically what our president has — the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times, that we won’t stand for it,” Curry said. “And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”

Following Curry’s comments, Trump tweeted that the team was uninvited. The team’s head coach, Steve Kerr, decided to let the players choose how they wanted to spend time in the nation’s capital this week while there for a game against the Washington Wizards, according to ESPN.

The team had many options, including holding a ceremony with Democratic politicians, according to NBC News. But the team wanted to depoliticize the D.C. visit.

A recent statement from the Warriors, per the New York Post, indicated the team chose to “constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.”

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HBCU announces closure after nearly a century

HBCU announces closure after nearly a century

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After nearly a century of educating Black students, Concordia College in Selma, Alabama announced on Wednesday that it will cease operations at the end of the spring semester.

“It was the toughest thing I’ve had to do in my 50 years of higher education,” Dr. James Lyons, the interim president of Concordia, told the Selma Times Journal, adding that the students “were quite shocked” by the news.

Like Concordia, many of the more than 100 HBCUs across the nation have dire financial problems, partly because operating costs are increasing while enrollment and financial aid decrease. Students at HBCUs are disproportionately low-income. About 70 percent of all HBCU students rely on federal grants and work-study programs to finance their education at a time when the Trump administration seeks ways to cut higher education funding.

Concordia, which opened in 1922, needed a minimum of $8 million to pay its debts and keep the doors open for at least one year—just enough money to buy time to find major investors. “It’s very difficult to operate an institution with the lowest possible tuition and fees when you are faced with escalating costs,” Lyons stated.

HBCUs are worth fighting for because, despite the challenges, they educate scores of Black students who would otherwise not attend college. These institutions accept scores of “at risk” students who need remedial academic work after graduating from public school systems that failed to educate them. Although they represent just 3 percent of all colleges and universities, HBCUs graduate more than 20 percent of Black college students and a disproportionately higher percentage of students who earn STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees, compared to majority White institutions.

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Seven school safety threats at Houston schools so far in February

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In Houston alone, there have been seven threats made to school safety since February 5, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo who held a joint press conference with the HISD Superintendent and Harris County Sheriff about school safety Wednesday.

Chief Acevedo says the most recent threat was made Wednesday morning when a 12-year-old boy threatened to bring an AR-15 rifle to KIPP Academy on Westpark Drive and shoot up the school. That threat did not materialize, but Chief Acevedo reminded parents to tell their children that school threats are no joke.

“That is a terroristic threat, and it is a crime,” said Chief Acevedo. “But it starts with parents at home. You have to have these conversations with the children—the dos and don’ts of 2018 in a world of violence, in a world of gun violence.”

The series of threats at Houston-area schools in the days before and after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting has led kids to speak out about the issue.

“Children who have been bullied are nearly twice as likely to carry weapons to school,” said Daphne Goodsby, an 8th grader speaking on stage at a Lanier Middle School town hall Wednesday.

Goodsby told FOX 26 bullying needs to be factored in when looking at what leads up to school shootings and other school violence.

“They feel like ‘this person bullied me, now I feel like I have to bully someone else or physically hurt somebody else to show everyone else that I’m stronger than you think,’” said Goodsby.

2014 study cited bullying and harassment as linked to 75 percent of school shooting incidents.

Goodsby says she and her classmates have felt on edge since the Parkland shooting.

“A little more on edge, scared, wondering if there’s going to be a school shooting because someone got bullied,” said Goodsby.

“What Daphne said,” echoed 8th grader Joseph Decker at Lanier Middle School. “I really think we need to step up our security and really focus on the bullied.”

Decker says bullying is only one of several factors to be considered.

“Personally, I blame the type of video games that come out today,” said Decker. “Because you know people are very nice about PUBG, Fortnite, Halo–but there’s actually really violent games and a lot of shooting and a lot of death for a kid to experience.”

Houston ISD’s superintendent says the district is stepping up efforts to improve safety at schools.

“We’ve asked everybody to review their emergency response plans,” said Superintendent Richard Carranza. “You’re going to see schools over the next few weeks practicing some scenarios, so we don’t want parents to be alarmed.”

Carranza says some of the scenarios schools will be practicing include active shooter drills as well as going over code words and phrases. He says schools will give parents a heads up before doing a drill at their child’s school.

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HISD names new principal for Wheatley High School

HISD names new principal for Wheatley High School

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DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — The Houston Independent School District has selected 22-year veteran educator and administrator Joseph Williams as the new principal for Wheatley High School. Williams’ tenure at Wheatley is effective today.

Williams is known for transforming underperforming schools into thriving campuses. Wheatley is in Year Six Improvement Required status, as designated by the Texas Education Agency, meaning it has not met state standards for six years.

For 90 years, Wheatley has served Houston’s historic Fifth Ward community and is recognized for its award-winning athletics program and notable alumni, which include Barbara Jordan, the first African-American U.S. Congresswoman from the South; her successor, U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland; and musician Archie Bell of Archie Bell & the Drells, among others.

“Joseph has consistently demonstrated a commitment toward improving teaching and learning while serving at HISD,” said Area Superintendent Erick Pruitt. “Every campus Joseph has led has consistently improved outcomes for students. I am excited to see what he will offer to Wheatley students and its community.”

Williams comes to Wheatley from Key Middle School, where he spent the last four years as principal.

During his tenure at Key, Williams led the school out of Improvement Required status by meeting state standards. Under his leadership, Key became the school with the second-highest student population growth in Texas among 40 comparative schools during the 2015-16 school year.

He also piloted and implemented the school’s ProUnitas Wraparound Services Program, designed to provide holistic services and support for students and their families, and implemented a Fine Arts Magnet Program alongside a multidisciplinary sports curriculum.

Prior to his assignment at Key Middle School, he also served as principal of Kelso Elementary School, Dogan Elementary School and assistant principal at Aldine Independent School District’s Vera Escamilla Intermediate School. Williams’ role at Wheatley marks his return to the high school’s feeder pattern. He began his career as a fifth-grade teacher at Atherton Elementary, where he was named Teacher of the Year for two consecutive years.

Throughout his career in education, Williams has worked as a fellow at Harvard University and has also partnered with the National Center for Urban School Transformation, Building Excellent Schools (BES), and Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Texas Southern University, obtained his teacher’s certification from St. Thomas University, and holds a master of education degree in administration and supervision from the University of Houston.

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