Pushout by Monique W. Morris

Pushout by Monique W. Morris

Pushout by Monique W. MorrisPushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris
Published by The New Press on March 29th 2016
Source: Publisher
Pages: 256
Buy from IndieBound


In October of 2015, 16-year-old Shakara was thrown from her school desk by a school resource officer because she didn’t put away her cell phone. While this recorded incident quickly gained media attention, similar situations take place in classrooms across the country on a daily basis. In her new book, Monique W. Morris explores the way black girls are often stereotyped and misunderstood by their teachers and schools, which can leave them excluded from the education they deserve.

“…a 2007 study found that teachers often perceived Black girls as being ‘loud, defiant, and precocious’ and that Black girls were more likely than their White or Latina peers to be reprimanded for being ‘unladylike’. Other research has found that the issuance of summonses and/or arrests appear to be justified by students’ display of ‘irate,’ ‘insubordinate,’ ‘disrespectful,’ ‘uncooperative,’ or ‘uncontrollable’ behavior. These labels often underscore the use of discipline, punishment, and the juvenile justice system to regulate identity and social status.”

Pushout is an absolutely eye-opening read, one that makes you gasp in some sections and whisper “Of course!” when lines are drawn in the next. I spent several years teaching in various settings, ending with two years in the juvenile correctional system, but reading Pushout was the first time I fully realized how distinct some experiences are for black girls. Those experiences are then highlighted in classroom situations, in which I could easily see former co-workers, students, and even shades of myself, in a completely new light.

“The student-teacher relationship is a critical component of whether a girl’s comments will be seen as a part of her expression and learning, or as a deliberate and willful affront to the teacher’s authority. Neither of these is against the law, by the way. Yet many schools punish girls who speak out of turn or challenge what they feel is injustice as if it were a violation of law rather than an interrogation of fairness.”

I actually underlined this with maybe the biggest YES I’ve used in a long time.

Let me throw professionalism out the window here and gush about how amazing it is to find someone doing incredible research that falls squarely in line with my interests. I’m starting a PhD program in Special Education and Disability Policy in the Fall and I’m very interested in developing interventions that help stop students with disabilities, particularly those with behavioral disorders, from being pulled into the justice system. That quote, and so much of what Dr. Morris writes about the role of teachers, is at the heart of what I want to do. The appendix was perhaps the most valuable part of the book for me as a researcher, as it lays out interventions to help black girls in schools and highlights gender/race research gaps that I’d love to explore in the future.

While I’m probably making Pushout sound like a niche read, it really can and should be read by everyone, particularly parents and educators. It even includes a fantastic Q&A section for girls, parents, community members, and educators that is incredibly valuable. I wish it had been around before I started teaching and I’d absolutely add to my Best Books for New Teachers as a must read.

  • I already said yes, yes, yes to this one when you posted about it in your IMWAYR post, but you’ve sold it even further. I’m just mad my library hasn’t ordered it yet—when I searched for it, they thought I wanted to read a book about pushups.

  • This sounds amazing. And, I love hearing your enthusiasm for it coming out in this post. Your research sounds so interesting and important. I hope we get to hear more about it as time goes on!

  • I completely agree with Naomi–I hope you’ll bring your research to the blog!

  • This really looks intriguing and dare I say it, a book I might need to read as an educator in a Title 1 school and as a former special educator. I will say that when I taught special education, even in an at risk school, I never really had those types of behaviors or outbursts from the black female population. However, I’ve noticed it a great deal among the general education population. It makes me wonder if perhaps the needs were actually being met for the sped students (I certainly hope so) and perhaps, the gen-ed students were not getting what they need because of a blueprint manner of teaching and blueprint expectations of how to participate, answer questions, behave, etc. Yes, I think this is one I need to delve into. Thanks for putting it on my radar. I may refer this one to my administrator for a school-out read, too.

    • I think you’re probably right about your students – they were probably getting that great student-teacher relationship that the quote nods to, where some of the other students were being misunderstood (in larger classrooms, etc). I’d love to see how this book works as a schoolwide read!

  • This sounds fascinating, and I’ll be adding it to my nonfiction TBR! I have a teacher friend who I am going to recommend it to as well!

  • Christy

    I was so disturbed by that incident at Spring Valley High, and I did a lot of follow-up reading on the “disturbing school” law that Shakara and Niya Kenny were arrested under. That law is so vague and open to interpretation, leaving this possibility for prejudice to come into play. I am especially upset that the charges still haven’t been dropped against Niya Kenny, who filmed the incident and was verbally upset as she watched how the SRO handled her classmate. I just searched social media and Niya Kenny’s court date is March 28th, unless it’s been moved again. Anyway, I definitely plan on reading Pushout though I am not involved in education in any way.

    • It was SO horrifying. I didn’t realize that those charges hadn’t been dropped and that’s just heartbreaking. We have something similar here in Virginia – there was just a proposal that would have ended charges of disorderly conduct in schools, but it didn’t pass.

      • Christy

        I do remember reading about Virginia’s similar law in my follow-up reading (I also live in Virginia and wanted to know if we had something like it). I hadn’t heard about that proposal to end charges though.

  • It doesn’t sound like a niche read at all! It sounds really fascinating and important. When I was in seventh grade, during my history class, we all watched out the window of our class while two police officers pepper-sprayed a black female student (it was middle school, so she’d have been fourteen or younger) who was arguing with them. It was scary as hell at the time, and in retrospect it’s particularly chilling to think about. I wish I’d been braver and done something. I don’t know that I even told my parents about it.

  • I put this one on hold at the library when I first heard you talking about it. I wish we lived closer so we could meet up, have a drink (or two) and talk about all of these educational issues in person. When I worked in a Therapeutic Day School (a place where many of these kids end up) I had students misunderstood for their behavior, put on meds, etc. I’m starting to see similarities between the ESL program and SPED now; misdiagnosis, placement, policy… :(
    I better stop or I’ll start to ramble. And I am SOOO excited for you to begin your program and hear all about it. Your passion for education, children and justice is wonderful to read about.

  • I don’t think you made this sound like a niche read – it sounds so important for everyone, really.

  • As others have said, I think this comes across as a book everyone should read, although it does seem especially important for people who teach. I find it horrifying in this day and age that any young woman should be censored for not being “ladylike” and it frustrates me that the burden of this stereotype may hit minority students particularly hard.

  • Holy shit, this sounds SO GOOD AND IMPORTANT. I put Just Mercy on hold at the library, as suggested, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep myself from adding this one too.

  • Sounds like a good read! The section you highlighted sounds a bit like some of what I’ve read in Girls and Sex, in that girls are punished or penalized for speaking out to authority figures.

  • This sounds amazing and right up my alley, on to the tbr it goes! I followed that incidence as well as too many others where Black girls are punished and already perceived as doing something wrong just for existing at the nexus of gender/race/age. I would argue that these kinds of books are required reading for everyone enjoying a form of privilege. Good luck with your phd program, it sounds amazing!

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  • Care

    I want to read this.