Black female student in the classroom, Public School, Classroom

Report Raises Alarming Safety Issues Black Girls Face In Florida Public Schools 

Protect Black all costs!

A report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) illuminates the growing challenges Black girls experience with school safety and school policing

“Keep Her Safe: Centering Black Girls in School Safety” examined the experiences faced by a group of Black girls and young women—between ages 14 to 24—in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS). The report reveals students studying in the district tend to face harsher treatment from school resource officers and security guards, including sexual harassment from security guards, specifically in the form of inappropriate comments about their appearance. 

Thanks to strict bathroom regulations, Black girls were found to lack privacy and suffered from public humiliation during in-class searches by police officers and even K-9s. With a limited amount of support for students at risk or who have survived sexual harassment and assault, discipline settings, such as detention, mimiced prison-like conditions. 

“Schools are where we spend the majority of our time, so the environment needs to feel safe,” an unidentified 12th grade student at Miami Northwestern Senior High School said. “You need to have some level of comfort being in your school. And, of course, there should be no risk of bodily harm.”

The report highlighted part of the reason Black girls feel unsafe in schools is due to “adultification,” defined as the perception that Black girls are older than they are, deemed less innocent and more promiscuous than their white counterparts. A junior at the same high school remembered a security guard being arrested and currently facing charges for touching the behind of two female students and asking a student for a sexual favor.

Florida school security officers are under the microscope after a number of alleged discriminatory incidents. The issue of skin tone came up as one sophomore at Miami Northwestern Senior High School allegedly witnessed security officers being more “gentle and compassionate” toward lighter-skinned students. 

Black girls are also more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension or expulsion than white girls, with approximately 25% percent of Black girls being involved in school-based incidents being arrested over the usual civil citation.

“I feel like when you’re a Black student, and you go to school, they don’t see you as …‘She’s just a kid,’” a Homestead Senior High School student said. “No, they see you as a grown person who’s responsible for your decision, and of course, you are, but I feel like, as kids, we should be given second chances.”

During the 2020–2021 school year, close to 1,300 security guards were listed as Miami school employees—nearly double the number of full-time school counselors. Miami Northwestern Senior High School had close to 20 security guards in addition to police officers. 

Director of Education Equity at the National Women’s Law Center, Bayliss Fiddiman, said, “Black girls everywhere deserve to feel safe in schools. In discussions about school safety, the experiences of Black girls are overlooked, resulting in ineffective school safety measures that do not take into account the specific barriers, stereotypes, and harms they face based on their race and gender.”

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., seem to share the same idea. In February 2024, co-chairs of the Caucus on Black Women and Girls—Democrat representatives Robin Kelly (IL), Yvette Clarke (NY), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ)—reintroduced the Protect Black Women and Girls Act, after its initial introduction in 2021. 

Supported by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), the bill seeks to create a task force to “examine the conditions and experiences of Black women and girls in education, economic development, healthcare, labor and employment, housing, justice and civil rights.”

Additionally, the legislation wants to “promote community-based methods for mitigating and addressing harm and ensuring accountability, and to study societal effects on Black women and girls and for other purposes.” 

To regulate changes for M-DCPS students and beyond, the report recommends that schools and lawmakers promote “holistic school safety,” a new strategy for schools to address the psychological, emotional, and physical safety needs of all students.

This includes investing in student support services, the expansion of understanding of school safety by formulating conversations with students and taking steps toward guaranteeing girls are marked safe from sexual harassment and assault, including by school-based police officers and security guards.