Protect Black Girls


At its core, Critical Race Theory (CRT) provides us with a panoply of necessary tools and a lens through which to analyze the multilayered relationship between Black girls, their education, and the criminal legal system.  Florida’s history, especially the historical landscape of Central Florida, distinctly highlights the grave importance of CRT when attempting to understand how society has failed to provide an ecosystem for Black girls to thrive and be protected.  While the contributions that CRT provide remain invaluable, often times, tools for addressing and healing from the traumas caused by the dissonance between legal theory and the individual and collective lived experience of oppressed peoples—specifically Black girls—go unaddressed.  I posit that this is the future of CRT: A guide for practice that not only provides a lens for understanding and reconstruction, but also engages fully with the Black tradition of healing, love, care, humanity, and Black joy that is both necessary to and necessary for sovereignty and liberation that allows us to show up in the work completely.


A fifteen-year-old Black girl doubled over and collapsed in pain on the cafeteria floor at Eustis High School in Lake County, Florida after a school police officer tasered her on January 26, 2021.  The video footage of her being brutalized in her Lake County school went viral.[1]  Days later, in another Central Florida county, Osceola, a school police officer at Liberty High School body-slammed another Black girl onto the sidewalk where she was left unconscious.[2]  In addition to being subjected to physical violence by an armed adult man, this young girl was handcuffed while still unconscious instead of being provided immediate medical treatment.  It was later discovered, although never a leading storyline in the media, that these young girls were being bullied by their peers before both incidents.  Instead of de-escalating the situation, these school police officers responded to Black girls in need with aggression and violence.  In both incidents, the young girls were suspended and faced potential criminal charges and expulsion when what they really needed was care, love, healing, and understanding.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an invaluable tool for analyzing the historical and central role the law has played in perpetuating policies and systems rooted in white supremacy or systemic racism.  The purpose of this framework is not only to address the failures and racist nature of the law in general, but to provide a clear lens through which solutions can be created for those negatively impacted by the racist underpinnings of U.S. law.  CRT as a theoretical framework has been at the nexus of countless civil rights advancements and has been instrumental in the dismantling of inequities in the practice of and the teaching of the law.  Through my own legal practice however, it has become clear that we often dismiss the importance of acknowledging the intersections of the racist structural conditions that lead to trauma, and skip immediately to creating so-called solutions to ensure that appalling events such as these—where adult men are allowed to brutalize Black girls—do not reoccur.[3]  The act of holding and caring for those who have been hurt, not only to get them justice under the law, but to validate, acknowledge, and heal from the pain caused by these systems is crucial if we ever wish to escape from the grasp of a society that does not see Black lives as whole or deserving of love, liberation, freedom healing, and joy.[4]

The future of CRT must be one where practitioners continue to create, build, and imagine frameworks that make the issues around systemic racism clearer; and as we consider the intersections of these oppressive systems, we should also focus on how we make and keep ourselves as Black people whole, while being impacted by and working within these systems.  My experience lawyering and organizing in Central Florida in support of Black girls facing the school-to-prison pipeline provides one of many examples of this need.

 I.  Central Florida’s Racist History

It is important to begin with the historical landscape of Central Florida, where these two violent incidents against Black girls mentioned above occurred.  Some of the most violent racist attacks against Black people in the United States during the twentieth century occurred in this region.[5]  The Rosewood Massacre in 1923 saw an entire town of predominately Black residents, landowners, and business owners, completely destroyed by an angry white mob comprised of hundreds of men, looking to lynch a Black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.  It is well documented that “from night-riding vigilantism to active lynching” Black people in Florida lived in fear “during the dangerous lynching era that lasted from Reconstruction in the mid-1870s to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”[6]

Lake County, where Eustice High School is located, is home to the Groveland Four, a case deemed to be one of the largest miscarriages of justice in the Jim Crow era.[7]  In 1949, a seventeen-year-old white girl accused four Black men of raping her after her car broke down one night.  These men were immediately arrested, but no due process followed.  All four men accused were tortured into false confessions by the police officers who arrested them.

One of the Groveland Four, Ernest Thomas, was killed by an angry mob in a manhunt after he tried to escape from being tortured.  Samuel Shepard and Walter Irvin received the death penalty at trial, but while being transported from jail for a retrial, they were both shot by the Sheriff, who decided to take justice into his own hands.  Shepard died at the scene and Irvin survived.  Thus, Charles Greenlee and Walter Irvin were the only two who survived long enough to have a trial and were both sentenced to life in prison.  In 2019, almost seventy years later, the state of Florida formally recognized how the four accused—Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas—were failed by the criminal justice system through a posthumous pardon from Governor Ron DeSantis.[8]  Another example of white mob violence from this era occurred in 1951 when Harry T. Moore, a community advocate and fearless community leader who brought countless Black voices to the table in an effort to change the political power structure in Florida, and his wife were murdered in their sleep after suspected Ku Klux Klan members placed a bomb under their home in Brevard County, Florida.[9]

This racist history against the Black community in Florida lives on to this day.  Black children and especially Black girls, have been forced to live with and fight against the appendages of both a legal and education system that were not created for them to succeed or live safe and happy lives.

 II.  Black Girls Are Not Safe in Schools

All across the United States, and in the State of Florida, there has been increased policing in public schools.[10]  According to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), “[s]chool-based policing is the fastest-growing area of law enforcement.”[11]  Students across the country face daily encounters with law enforcement at their schools that are degrading, demoralizing, and violative of their constitutional rights.

In Florida, statute 1006.12(1)(b) states that “[s]chool resource officers . . . shall consult with and coordinate activities through the school principal, but shall be responsible to the law enforcement agency in all matters relating to employment,”[12] which includes hiring, firing, and reprimand.  This law leads to a mandated increased police presence in the schools but allows officers freedom from accountability by anyone within the school ecosystem.

Unsurprisingly, the increased police presence does make students safer, nor does it provide a greater sense of safety for students.[13]  For example, of the students surveyed in one school in Palm Beach County, Florida, only 35 percent said they felt protected, while 65 percent said that they felt “something other than protected, including being intimidated and harassed.”[14]  The presence of police in schools does not make the experience of youth better.  In fact, it leads to worse outcomes for student safety “as the institution of policing and even police themselves are inherently violent entities—history has informed us of that.”[15]

Black girls are criminalized and pushed out of schools at a higher rate than any other demographic.[16]  In 2020, the New York Times analyzed the most recent discipline data from the Education Department and discovered that:

Black girls are over five times more likely than white girls to be suspended at least once from school, seven times more likely to receive multiple out-of-school suspensions than white girls and three times more likely to receive referrals to law enforcement.[17]

The hypercriminalization of Black girls and the discipline disparities in schools are undoubtedly connected to the increase in punitive school policies and practices.  These practices and policies “conflate student conflict with criminal activity and the criminalization of Black girls’ appearance”[18] and their attitudes “absent any actions or behaviors that threaten the safety of students or teachers.”[19]

Thus, to assume that these disparities that disproportionately impact Black girls mean that Black girls are committing more criminal offenses is simply wrong.  These communities and schools are overpoliced and under protected, and Black girls are punished for merely being children and having emotions.  This abusive and punitive response to Black girls in particular, is not new.  In fact, we can trace the dehumanization of the “bad” Black girl back hundreds of years, with literature suggesting that their “delinquency was innate and not something that could be critically examined and corrected.”[20]  In short, their very being and unruly, inconvenient bodies were the essence of the problem.[21]

In Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, researchers at the Center on Poverty and Inequality of Georgetown University Law School found that:

compared with white girls of the same age, African American girls in a nationwide survey were perceived to “need less nurturing, less protection, to be supported less, to be comforted less, to be more independent, to know more about adult topics, and to know more about sex.”[22]

This data shows an “adultification” of young Black girls, creating an environment where “Black girls are held to different expectations and standards because they are perceived by the authorities as being older and thus more accountable.”[23]  In Sounding the Alarm: Criminalization of Black Girls in Florida researchers at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center similarly found that:

In Florida, there were seven girls under age 10 charged with felonies—all of whom were Black.  Of all the arrests of girls ages 6–9 in Florida, 83% were Black girls . . . . There were 558 girls ages 12 and younger that came into contact with law enforcement, in 2019–2020.  The percentage of Black girls in this age group (55%) is even higher than the percent of Black girls of all ages that came in contact with law enforcement at school (49%) or in the community (41%).  This initial point is critical; all of these girls were eligible for a pre-arrest diversion alternative, because this was their first charge.  Of the arrested girls under age 12, 52% were Black (Department of Juvenile Justice Civil Citation and Other Alternatives to Arrest Dashboard, extracted January 2021).[24]

The data provides us with an opportunity and a perspective from which to interrogate the implicit biases and adultification that prevent many of us from recognizing and responding to trauma among Black girls with compassion and empathy.[25]

It is the assumed ownership and “thingification”[26] of the bodies of Black girls that make their emotions seem so dangerous.  “The most dehumanizing fight students of color face is the one to reclaim their identities from the minds of adults who believe they’re prone to becomeanimals,’ ‘superpredators,’ or gang-affiliated, perceptions that serve to rationalize law enforcement in schools.”[27]

It is clear from the abundance of data and research that Black girls are not safe in schools, yet while we know this to be true, nothing seems to be changing in order to make it safer for them in future.  I saw this firsthand working in Central Florida’s Osceola County and Lake County.

 III.  We Must Protect Black Girls

In Osceola County and Lake County, two Black girls were rendered invisible—their frustration and acts to defend themselves turned them into irredeemable problem children in the eyes of the school.  In both instances, these young girls were angry and had lost their ability to regulate emotions, as any developing teenager—or adult—does when they experience emotions and harm they have never had to navigate.  This was a dangerous and helpless situation that these children were forced to endure at Eustice and Liberty High Schools.[28]

In response to these attacks on the Black girls by school police officers in Lake County and Osceola County, the Black Girls Matter Miami Coalition (BGM),[29] of which I am a member, mobilized by the S.O.U.L Sisters Leadership Collective[30] responded.  A rapid response team of Black and brown women, femmes, and non-binary organizers, artists, healers, social workers, and restorative justice counselors coordinated to support the two students who were brutally assaulted by their school police officers.  As a practicing attorney focused on transformative change, movement work and action that transitions power back to those who are directly impacted, I decided to join the rapid response team and spent the next week working with organizers, the young students at these schools and their families to get justice.

In Lake County, we canvassed a local park and talked with folks at a local peanut stand to understand how the community and students were feeling about the violent incident.  Through these conversations it became clear that even within the Black community some considered the young Black girls as aggressors and immediately regarded them as children who “should know better”—a phrase symbolic of the many ways that Black girls are stripped of childhood and girlhood.[31]  The dominant narrative was painted by the media by way of police departments who sent out press releases that put the blame fully on these students, rather than the adult police officers who were not equipped or interested in de-escalating the situations or caring for these school-aged children.  In an effort to bring the community together and in support of the young girls, we made banners and stickers to post at the local park and around the community that said, “Work Together, Love Together, Heal Together,” “Protect Black Girls,” and “Listen To Black Girls.”

In Osceola, we worked with a student at Liberty High School who wanted to organize a protest and school walkout in support of his friend who was harmed.  The school administration immediately threatened to suspend this student and any student who participated in the protest.  To combat these threats and to better protect the students who wanted their voices to be heard, the BGM coalition team continued working with local students to organize a protest at Liberty High School after school hours and on public property—as opposed to on the school’s property—outside the school facilities so as not to upset the administration.

Additionally, the BGM coalition visited both girls and their families, bringing with us care packages and the offer of additional resources and support.  We wanted them to know that they were loved that they were cared for, and that their actions did not merit the violence that was imposed upon them by adult male officers who are supposedly paid to protect them.  In their care packages were weighted blankets, yoga mats, kente cloth jewelry, essential oils, products for a calming bath, and much more.  They both loved their gifts and not only welcomed the support but expressed that they needed to be shown this kind of unconditional love and understanding.  During their actions in both counties, the students’ demands were clear: Protect Black girls, listen to Black girls, abolish school police officers, and institute more healing, care, and restoration for these types of traumatic incidents at schools that disproportionately impact students of color.

Unsurprisingly however, our demands were vehemently opposed.  We were faced with angry school administrators who did not want students to speak out against the incidents that occurred.  We experienced hostility and threats of physical violence by some members of the public, which resulted in the BGM coalition members removing ourselves from the space for safety concerns, all because we said, “Black girls matter” and Black girls deserve to feel safe and protected at school.

The most dangerous experience occurred in Lake County.  The BGM team was standing in front of the small one-story building that housed the Lake County School Board meetings.  The sun was beginning to set, and the team was exhausted—many of the organizers had lost their voices from leading two days of protests.  At the time, Lake County’s COVID protocols limited the number of people who could be in the School Board meeting at one time.  As a result, the lead organizer of the emergency delegation and I chose to remain outside and listen to the proceedings in the hallway where they were being broadcast over a speaker system.  As the meeting was called to order, a tall white man walked in with his hands in his pockets looking around the lobby area.  The energy in the hallway immediately shifted.  He was wearing a sweatshirt with a patch on it that I and the other organizer immediately recognized as a white power symbol.  He had on a hat that read “Infidels” and a black bandana mask that covered so much of his face that only his eyes were visible.  He was wearing a sweater, but there appeared to be something underneath it, a bulkiness that the other organizer and I both assumed to be a bulletproof vest.  He proceeded to ask the police officers stationed at the door if he would be allowed to enter and they explained that because of COVID, he would need to wait in the hallway with the lead organizer and myself.

He quickly put up a fight, talking fast and loud—it was obvious that he wanted us to hear him.  He kept looking our way as he spoke to security and positioned his body so that he was facing us directly.  He began to loudly boast about his Second Amendment right to bear arms—while looking directly at the lead organizer and myself.  As he continued to mention his Second Amendment rights, my colleague texted me that she felt unsafe and that she thought we should leave.  Right as she said this, this same man began to take flash photos of me and the other organizer.

At that moment I did not know what to do.  My first thought was to grab the camera from his hands, call him pathetic and weak for trying to scare children from speaking their minds, and push past him as he was blocking the exit.  But I was there in my capacity as a lawyer and was asked to attend this trip in order to protect these amazing young people protesting and organizing.  My role was to guide them in the safest way to move forward when facing situations exactly like this.  I felt like I was underwater and needing to choose between protecting myself as a Black woman or being a lawyer to the team.  Eventually, we were able to get everyone out of the meeting safely, but not before he started taking pictures of our license plates and the rest of the students and organizers exiting the meeting.

It is easy to write these people off.  This part of Florida is what so many describe as “flyover country.”  The people who showed up to oppose our actions live in a state with significant support for extreme right-wing politics.[32]  Yet, as I saw them stand up and argue for the continued mistreatment of Black girls, not dissimilar to those in that older Florida who fought for what led to the lost lives of the Groveland Four, I recognized that ignorance was the cause of this, in part.  In that moment, I began to consider how CRT—something so vilified, especially in our nation’s schools—could serve to challenge the way these young Black girls’ communities treated them and help us identify new paths for healing and repair.

IV.  Critical Race Theory Is a Necessary Tool

CRT asks us to look at the ways in which the law and our legal practice insulate and perpetuate racial inequality in the country.[33]  It argues that the power structures being enforced by the United States legal system are racially prejudicial and that there is a direct relationship between legal power and social power in American institutions.[34]  Through CRT, we are provided a necessary lens through which to analyze the multi-layered relationship between Black girls, their education, and the criminal legal system.[35]  Only through understanding how these systems interact with one another and coexist will there be any chance of stopping the future harm and impact they will have on Black girls and children of color generally.  Many public school systems, however, are vehemently opposed to exploring anything that has to do with the racist history of Florida, and the larger United States.  What school districts and the right is calling CRT in Florida, much of the time, is plain history—it is distinct from the CRT that emerges out of law schools and informs our study.[36]

In 1990, the Lake County School Board approved the xenophobic “America First” policy which required school instructors to teach that America was “superior to other foreign or historic cultures.”[37]  This racist history still lives on in Lake County.  Just last year, a Lake County School Board member argued against including any CRT—or any mention of the present impact of such oppressive histories—in the curriculum, stating that CRT is “insipid in that it elevates one group’s struggles over other groups” and “ignores the progress made in the recent [fifty] years in our country.”[38]

Osceola County school officials have also joined the chorus against CRT, though it is clear they have no idea what it is and are using it as a race boogeyman.  Take, for example, Frank Kruppenbacher, the Osceola County School District Attorney who claimed at a 2021 School Board hearing, “People use this term [CRT] the minute the term ‘race’ comes up.  Based on how I’m reading it you can almost accuse anything of being critical race theory.”  He continued:

It is not part of our school curriculum. . . . Personally, I don’t think any teachers in the K-12 system should be voicing any opinions on issues like this, they should be talking about the facts of the history of the U.S.  I can’t assure that every single teacher doesn’t somehow engage in CRT discussions.  If it is it isn’t endorsed by our district.  I can tell you, that’s gotta [sic] be reported to us and it needs to be investigated.[39]

Osceola County School District is the same school district where a teacher was recently investigated after a video circulated on social media captured her claiming she has the right to dislike Black people.  She said:

I was 16-years-old, and I was attacked on a MARTA train by a gang—and yes gang, wearing bandanas, gang signs, language—of Blacks in metro Atlanta.  I have as much right as anybody else to dislike [Black people] for what happened to me . . . You don’t get to sit there and preach to me what I do and don’t know.[40]

Instead of denouncing CRT and criminalizing children who are trying to understand their complex emotions, these schools could learn from the organizers, healers, and artists of the BGM coalition that came to the defense of the two young Black girls who were brutalized by school police officers in Lake County and Osceola County.[41]  CRT can be deployed as a useful tool for discussing intersectionality and storytelling to provide a framework that will continue to highlight the experiences of Black girls.  But I learned from working with BGM in Central Florida that while it is important to have a framework and understanding, it is just as important to heal the harms that have been caused in the present.

At its core, CRT creates a container and intellectual space for those engaged in the work to interrogate Black girls’ experience in the education system, the criminal legal system, and to more generally understand the ways in which systems of oppression and racism function.  Through concepts such as intersectionality and counternarratives, CRT recognizes that traditional legal theory—through abstraction and objectification—champions a supposed unbiased or neutral universal perspective by distancing itself from social reality.[42]

Intersectionality is “the examination of race, sex, class, national origin, and sexual orientation and how their combination plays out in various settings.”[43]  In many ways, it is a lens through which to study where power comes from and where it collides, interlocks, and intersects.  It is not simply that there is a problem that people of a certain race, gender, class, or sexual orientation  face, but rather, it explores how one person is experiencing the impact of all these systems at once and how this trauma looks different than if they were intersecting in fewer or different ways.[44]  This framework is helpful in attempting to understand Black girls’ experiences in school and can shed light on their situation.

Storytelling and counternarratives are also extremely important tools that CRT gives us.  The premise is that CRT theorists are able to build on “everyday experiences with perspective, viewpoint, and the power of stories and persuasion to come to a deeper understanding of how Americans see race.”[45] Through exploring different types of narrative forms, the CRT practitioner also allows those directly impacted to become experts in their own experience.  Other scholars have examined narrative theory in an effort to understand what stories work and what stories do not when trying to persuade different audiences.  “Legal storytellers, such as Derrick Bell and Patricia Williams, draw on a long history with roots going back to the slave narratives, tales that were written by [B]lack captives to describe their condition and unmask the gentility that white plantation society pretended to have.”[46]

While CRT provides us with much-needed tools, what is needed now is not only a fight for the future, but tools that help heal from what has happened in the past.  We are all impacted by our experiences, we are changed by them, and we carry that with us wherever we go.  If we are not actively focused on not only understanding why things happen but also how to heal from them, we risk leaving the door open for more cyclical pain and broken systems, methods, and practices.

I posit that the demands, practices, and discourse of restorative justice—which seeks to repair the harm caused between two parties and is an alternative to other more punitive measures of justice—are an antidote to the problems in our system identified by CRT.  In the restorative justice approach, educators and social workers focus on prevention rather than punishment by addressing underlying trauma and emotional and social issues.  Through a process of inclusive decision making between those who have been harmed and those who caused the harm, the community can participate in a process that involves active accountability, repairing harm, and rebuilding trust.  Restorative justice makes accountability active, focuses on reparation and healing that rebuilds relationships so that offenders can be trusted again, and harmed parties can feel safe.[47]  Restorative justice deals with what is happening in the moment and recognizes that when we carry this harm into the future, it impacts our future actions, feelings, and systems we are involved in.  CRT correctly recognizes that the law will never be an adequate tool for Black freedom and liberation, however restorative justice provides community with a process that can assist in fostering a space for future dreaming, healing, and imagining a new paradigm.

I believe that the future of CRT needs not only focus on the “study of transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power,”[48] but also actively provide more tools for addressing and healing from the traumas caused by the dissonance between legal theory and the individual and collective lived experience of oppressed peoples—Black girls in particular.  In addition, I believe that the future of CRT should not only engage with what exists but provide guidance on pedagogy for practitioners on how to show up more fully[49] in their work and see themselves as sites of transformation.  The future of CRT needs to involve practice and provide tools for healing trauma and breaking down the barriers that prevent us from showing up in the work in our wholeness.

V.  Black Girls Deserve Support, Love, and Protection

We must prioritize our healing and the healing of the young people who are impacted by racist and oppressive systems every day.  Wellness is a part of social and racial justice work.  It is easier to focus on the structures and systems that cause harm than it is to focus on the pain; it is difficult to hold and sit with someone who is experiencing a level of abuse that only comes to those who have been terrorized because of their race and their bodies.[50]  Addressing not only future harms but also dealing with the states of our bodies, minds, and spirits as they are in this moment, is a critical factor in correcting the systems that harm us.  CRT as a framework can contend with the circumstance of race, racism, and power.  We can also see ourselves as more than sites of resistance, and develop practices to help cause less harm, heal from harm, and focus on reinvigorating our bodies.[51]

In practice, this would involve utilizing a trauma-informed lens coupled with the CRT principles of centering voices of color, and providing varying forms of engagement, storytelling, and social-emotional learning in the classroom and in our legal practice.  It would involve working with and partnering more closely with social workers, healing practitioners, and artists who have expertise and focus on how to assist in traversing the healing process.  We must not practice as though we are separated from our bodies and past experiences.  As legal practitioners and educators, we must create and elevate opportunities that support a more rigorous interrogation of the culture, policies, and internalized ideas informing what and how we teach, practice, and interact with communities in the struggle.[52]

We must combine a theory and practice of love, care, joy and justice in order to break down disciplinary boundaries, decenter authority, and restructure the “relationship between agency, power, and struggle.”[53]  It is time that we start to listen to Black girls and care for them.  Instead of focusing exclusively on the future and changing policy, let us focus on the young people who are right in front of us saying that they need help.  Black girls matter.


In my experience thus far, CRT has a role to play as a practice that not only provides a lens for understanding and reconstruction, but also engages fully in a tradition of healing, love, care, humanity, and Black joy rooted in a framework of sovereignty and liberation that allows us to show up in the work with our whole selves.

I have learned that sometimes communities need you to show up as a lawyer, but this does not mean you need to operate in only one paradigm.  More often than not, the community and those who have been harmed need you to show up to listen, to support each other through trauma and pain, and to help heal from the experiences that brought you together.  CRT’s lessons on intersectionality invite me to show up in my wholeness as a queer Black woman.  The power of the laws abstraction often pushes us to isolate ourselves from our own practice and experiences, rendering not only our own experience invisible but also the experiences of those who we fight for and respond to in our struggle for freedom and Black liberation.  CRT asks me to center and take direction from those most directly impacted by systems of oppression because the experiences of those who I fight for and respond to in our struggle for freedom and Black liberation have the best understanding of how to dismantle those systems.  In Central Florida, we used these lessons to build power with and around young Black girls.  I know that CRT can do the same powerful work in other contexts and bring us closer to our collective liberation.

[1].          Press Release, Black Girls Matter, School Police Assault in Lake County Statement: Jan. 2021 (Feb. 7, 2021) [].

[2].          Press Release, Black Girls Matter, #AssaultAtLiberty Statement: Jan. 2021, (Jan. 29, 2021) [].

[3].          Amanda Alexander, Nurturing Freedom Dreams: An Approach to Movement Lawyering in the Black Lives Matter Era, 5 How. Hum. & C.R.L. Rev. 101, 107 (2021) (“Sometimes communities need people to show up as lawyers to support their work.  Just as often, though, we need to be ready to show up, not as lawyers, but as people ready to listen, to build deep relationships with each other, to hold each other through our trauma, to practice our freedom together, and to heal.  That is part of the creative and transformational work of movement building.”).

[4].          We must continue to actively engage not only with the freedoms that would allow for Black girls to feel safe in school but work collectively to heal the harms we know these systems cause.  Without this focus on healing, there is no liberation that can create space for joy.  Charlene Carruthers, Unapologetic: A Black Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements 25 (2018) (“Here the distinction between freedom and liberation is that of individual freedom versus collective access to our full humanity.  The former can be gained and felt on various levels, but the latter is an ongoing process.  We can gain or hold various freedoms—for example, the freedom to vote, the freedom to marry, the freedom to choose abortion.  But liberation is a collective effort which, even after freedoms are won, continual regeneration and transformation are necessary.  Liberation must entail resistance to the dominant oppressive systems that permeate our societies (e.g. capitalism, patriarchy, and anti-Black racism.)”).

[5].          David D. Porter, Florida Had a Pivotal Role in Both Infamy and Victory in the Battle for Civil Rights, Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 10, 2003, at G1.0 (“​​Between 1900 and 1930, Florida had more lynchings per capita than Alabama or Mississippi.  In 1920, an Election Day dispute in Ocoee ended with the lynching of July Perry and terror attacks that drove [B]lacks out of that west Orange County town.  A year later, a report that a [B]lack man raped a white woman set off a riot in north Florida’s Levy County.”).

[6].          Marvin Dunn, The Beast in Florida: A History of Anti-Black Violence (2013).

[7].          Sara Weisfeldt, 4 Black Men Exonerated More Than 70 Years After Being Wrongly Accused of Raping a White Teen Girl, CNN (Nov. 23, 2021, 9:58 AM), [].

[8].          Erik Ortiz, Groveland Four, the Black Men Accused in 1949 Rape, Get Case Dismissed, NBC News (Nov. 22, 2021, 4:16 PM), [].

[9].          Dunn, supra note 6, at 176.

[10].        Valerie Strauss, There Are Now More Police Officers in Florida’s Schools Than
Student Arrests Are Rising, Wash. Post (Sept. 3, 2020), [] (“There are now more law enforcement officers in Florida’s K–12 schools than there are nurses, and arrests of students have jumped in the two years since legislators passed a law requiring that every school deploy a police officer or armed school employee, according to a new report.”); Vanessa Patino Lydia & Vinessa Gordon, Delores Barr Weaver Pol’y Ctr., Sounding the Alarm: Criminalization of Black Girls in Florida ii (2021) (“Datasets from the Florida Department of Education and Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) provide context for levels of disciplinary exclusion, criminalization at school, and justice system involvement for these girls.  Statewide, Black girls make up only 21% of girls ages 10–17, but they represent 45% of the girls who were arrested, 52% of girls on probation caseloads, 47% of the girls incarcerated, and 52% of the girls transferred into the adult criminal justice system.  This overrepresentation has been consistent for the last decade.”); F. Chris Curran, Educ. Pol’y Rsch. Ctr., The Expanding Presence of Law Enforcement In Florida Schools 2 (2020) (“[T]he number of law enforcement in Florida schools nearly doubled, and the number of Florida schools served by law enforcement increased by 40% between 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years.”).

[11].        About NASRO, Nat’l Ass’n of Sch. Res. Officers, [].

[12].        Fla. Stat. § 1006.12(1)(b) (2021).

[13].        Patino Lydia & Gordon, supra note 10, at 1 (“According to the United States Government Accountability Office, Black three-year-olds were 3.6 times more likely to be suspended at least once compared to [w]hite preschoolers (citation omitted).  The data show that Black girls in particular experience higher rates of Exclusionary School Discipline (ESD) such as suspension and expulsion, and this is often in response to minor violations, such as dress code or defiance.”).  Not only are young girls being over policed and feeling unsafe in school, but it is having a severe impact on their mental health as well.  See id. at 4 (“Florida is home to 1.4 million girls enrolled in K–12 public schools.  One in five enrolled girls is Black.  In middle and high school, Black girls experience sadness (57%, felt sad most days in the year prior to taking the survey), hopelessness (35%, sometimes felt that life was not worth it), suicide ideation (16%, in the year prior to taking the survey seriously considered attempting suicide), and feeling unsafe in school (36%) and in their neighborhoods (16%).”).

[14].        Advancement Project, Alliance for Educational Justice, Dignity in Schools Campaign & NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Police in Schools Are Not the Answer to School Shootings (reprt. 2018); Michelle Morton, Elizabeth Gilliam, Kelsey Norman, Jessika Parish, Savanna Williams, Angela mann, Katherine Dunn, Bacardi Jackson, Yasamin Sharifi & Ian Siljestrom, The Cost of School Policing: What Florida’s Students Have Paid for a Pretense of Security 8 (2020) (“Students today are reporting more stress than any other generation, and show significant declines in mental health and increasing suicidality.  While for some students, school provides a safe, stable environment for many, it is their primary source of stress.  This reality is illustrated by increased suicide rates while school is in session.”).

[15].        Jared Rodriguez, Police-Led Youth Programs Don’t Actually Combat the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Truthout, (Jan. 11, 2022) [] (“However, the effect of keeping police in schools and positioning them to lead diversionary programs is that they have exacerbated the violence of policing and harm against marginalized communities.”).

[16].        Patino Lydia & Gordon, supra note 10, at 1 (“Half of the girls involved in Florida’s juvenile justice system are Black girls, even though they are only one-fifth of girls in the general population.”).

[17].        Erica L. Green, Mark Walker & Eliza Shapiro, “A Battle for the Souls of Black Girls, N.Y. Times  (Oct. 1, 2020), [] (“In New York City, Black girls in elementary and middle school were about 11 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers in 2017, according to a report from the Education Trust-New York, a research and advocacy group.  In Iowa, Black girls were nine times more likely to be arrested at school than white girls, according to a state-by-state analysis conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union.”).

[18].        Monique W. Morris, Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues: Education for the Liberation of Black and Brown Girls 57 (2019).

[19].        Id.; see also Patino Lydia & Gordon, supra note 10, at 2 (“Epstein, Blake, and Gonzalez (2017) found . . . . [s]ome survey respondents (adults from across the nation with varying race, ethnicity, age, and education) perceive Black girls as older than [w]hite girls of the same age, more independent, and in need of less protection and support (citation omitted).  These adult perceptions about girls were consistent not only for Black girls in the 10–14 age group, but also toward Black girls in the 5–9 age group, suggesting that attitudes related to harsher punishment of Black girls starts at a young age.  Such perceptions about girls and particularly girls of color can affect probation officers’ assessments of the risk a girl poses, as well as their recommendations for disposition and sentencing (citation omitted).”).

[20].        Id. at 142.

[21].        See, e.g., Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America 133–34 (2010) (“Black women’s perceived moral shortcomings or racial ‘defects’ disqualified them from the protective status of the law. . . . The problem was ‘located in Black women themselves.’”).

[22].        Morris, supra note 18, at 52.  Rebecca Epstein, Jamilia J. Blake, Thalia González, Ctr on Poverty & Ineq. Geo. U. L. Sch., Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood 8 (2017) (“The significance of this result lies in the potential for adultification to act as a contributing cause of the demonstrated harsher treatment of Black girls when compared to white girls of the same age.  Simply put, if authorities in public systems view Black girls as less innocent, less needing of protection, and generally more like adults, it appears likely that they would also view Black girls as more culpable for their actions and, on that basis, punish them more harshly despite their status as children.”).

[23].        Patino Lydia & Gordon, supra note 10, at iv.

[24].        Id.

[25].        Id.

[26].        Robert Brit, Existence, Identity, and Liberation, in Existence in Black: An Anthology of Black Existential Philosophy 207 (Lewis R. Gordon ed., 1997) (“What does it mean to say the slave is a fixture or that a human being is an object in the midst of other objects?  What is the meaning of Aimé Césaire’s equation ‘colonization = thingification?’  Essentially, it is that [Black people] lose altogether the status of human beings.  The [B]lack person is ‘reduced to pure facticity, concealed in his immanence, cut off from his future, deprived of his transcendence…’” quoting Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity 100 (Bernard Frechtman trans., Citadel Press 1976) (1948).

[27].        Morris, supra note 18, at 96.

[28].        It is important to note that Osceola and Lake Counties both have a history of incarcerating and providing harsher punishment to Black girls.  See Patino Lydia & Gordon, supra note 10, at 8 (“Seven counties (Broward, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Polk) have charged ten or more girls ages 6–12 with a felony offense, and ten counties (Brevard, Escambia, Hillsborough, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, and Volusia) have charged ten or more girls with misdemeanors.  In all the counties mentioned, Black girls of all ages are overrepresented.).

[29].        Who We Are, Black Girls Matter Miami, [] (“The Black Girls Matter Miami Coalition seeks to address the many dangerous odds facing young women of color in America.  From public education to the criminal justice system, the various institutions that come in contact with [B]lack and brown youth fail to address issues that disproportionately impact young women and girls of color.”).

[30].        Our Mission and Vision, S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective, [] (The S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective “envision[s] a world in which young women, femmes, and TGNC youth of color reclaim lives of authenticity, joy, and freedom through restorative justice, collective leadership, creative expression, and radical abolitionist healing.”).

[31].        Monique W. Morris, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools 34 (2016) (“Along this truncated age continuum, Black girls are likened more to adults than to children and are treated as if they are willfully engaging in behaviors typically expected of Black women—sexual involvement, parenting or primary caregiving, workforce participation, and other adult behaviors and responsibilities.  This compression is both a reflection of deeply entrenched biases that have stripped Black girls of their childhood freedoms and a function of an opportunity-starved social landscape that makes Black girlhood interchangeable with Black womanhood.”).

[32].        Michael Wilner, Nicholas Nehamas & Sarah Blaskey, Far-Right Groups Find That Florida Provides Fertile Ground—and a National Stage, Miami Herald (Feb. 13, 2022, 11:19 AM), (last visited Mar. 17, 2022).

[33].        What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?, Colum. News, (July 1, 2021) [].

[34].        Alexandra Smith, Why Critical Race Theory Is Essential to an Honest Education in
, Hum. Rts. Pulse, (Sept. 2, 2021) [].

[35].        To be clear, CRT has not been stagnant since its creation and has evolved overtime, as it should.  Intersectionality for example, which is the study and examination of the intersections of race, sex, class, national origin, and sexual orientation was coined in 1989 by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw.  Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, 1989 U. Chi. Legal F. 139 (1989).  Professor Crenshaw’s research at the time focused largely on CRT and coined the term in her paper Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex in which she claims that the law seems to forget that Black women are both Black and female, and thus subject to discrimination on the basis of both race, gender, and a combination of the two.  See, e.g., id. at 140.  This new framework helped the panoply of CRT become a space for even deeper critical discussion on the structural and systemic questions about discrimination and inequality.  See Jane Coaston, The Intersectionality Wars, Vox (May 28, 2019, 9:09 AM) (last visited Mar. 17, 2022).

[36].        Recently, the term CRT has become a catchall for those on the right and for those opposed to introducing a more critical discussion of U.S. history or systemic racism into school curricula.  See Olivia B. Waxman, Critical Race Theory Is Simply the Latest Bogeyman.’ Inside the Fight Over What Kids Learn About America’s History, Time (July 16, 2021 7:42 PM), [] (This viewpoint has come to the fore amid a surge of controversy over [C]ritical [R}ace [T]heory (CRT), a decades-old academic framework that scholars use to interrogate how legal systems—as well as other elements of society—perpetuate racism and exclusion.  Opponents of CRT now invoke it as a catchall term for any discussion of systemic racism . . . . On June 10, the Florida board of education approved a rule that instruction “may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”).

[37].        Bill Mathias, Critical Race Theory Has No Place in Lake County Schools, Daily
(July 9, 2021, 7:00 AM), [].

[38].        Id.

[39].        Ken Jackson, School District Attorney: Critical Race Theory “Frightening to Me, Osceola News-Gazette, (Oct. 25, 2021) [].

[40].        Stephanie Bechara, Osceola County Teacher Removed From Class Over Report of Racially Charged Comments in Class, Spectrum News 13, (Oct. 14, 2020, 5:47 PM), []; see also Angela Jacobs, Superintendent Says “‘Racism Is Never Tolerated”‘ After Video Circulates of Osceola County Teacher Making Remarks About Race, WFTV9 ABC, (Oct. 15, 2020) [].

[41].        All across Florida school districts are banning CRT and the teaching of Florida’s racist history.  Now the state legislature has also jumped onboard.  See Gillian Brockell, Florida Seeks to Block Uncomfortable Themes in Schools.  Its History is Full of Them, Wash. Post, (Feb. 9, 2022, 7:00 AM) [] (“The Florida state legislature kicked off Black History Month by advancing bills that would allow parents to sue a school if any instruction caused students ‘discomfort, guilt or anguish.’  The bills have been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who last year said he wanted to ban [C]ritical [R]ace [T]heory and “wokeness” from being taught in Florida schools.”).  Not only is race off limits, but so are conversations about sexuality and gender as well.  See Joe Hernandez, Florida House Passes Controversial Measure Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill by Critics, NPR, (Feb. 24, 2022, 7:49 PM) [] (“The legislation prohibits any instruction about sexuality or gender between kindergarten and third grade ‘or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.’”).

[42].        Charles R. Lawrence, III, The Word and the River: Pedagogy as Scholarship as Struggle, in Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement 338 (Gary Peller, Kendall Thomas, Kimberlé Crenshaw & Neil Gotanda eds., 1995).

[43].        Richard Delgado & Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction 57 (2017).

[44].        Kimberlé Crenshaw on Intersectionality, More Than Two Decades Later, Colum. L. Sch.: News From Colum. L., (June 8, 2017), [].

[45].        Delgado & Stefancic, supra note 44, at 44.

[46].        Derrick Bell and Patricia Williams are both credited with being two of the early originators and creative minds behind CRT and in the movement to reframe the inherent racism within the law and legal practice.  Id. at 44.

[47].        David R. Karp, The Little Book of Restorative Justice for Colleges and Universities: Repairing Harm and Rebuilding Trust in Response to Student Misconduct 9 (2015).

[48].        Id. at 3.

[49].        Audre Lorde, Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference (Copeland Colloquium, Amherst College, Apr. 1980) (“My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restrictions of externally imposed definition.  Only then can I bring myself and my energies as a whole to the service of those struggles which I embrace as part of my living.”).

[50].        This was the topic of several conversations between the author and Wakumi Douglas, Soros Fellow and Founding Executive Director of S.O.U.L Sisters Leadership Collective on February 9, 2022.

[51].        Rodriguez, supra note 15 (“Progress is recognizing the harm that police have done throughout history.  It is making a conscious choice to position other entities, such as counselors in youth diversionary reform.  It is also making a proactive shift to providing communities with what they need—housing, health care, quality education—so instances that would have otherwise involved police are not needed.”).

[52].        Morris, supra note 18, at 46.

[53].        bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress 129 (1994).

About the Author

“We are each other’s harvest: we are each other’s business: we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” – Gwendolyn Brooks*

Denise Ama Ghartey is an attorney with the Community Justice Project and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Miami School of Law. I was raised in community. There is no way I would be where I am without all of the family, friends, teachers, community healers, comrades, confidants, organizers, colleagues, and truly amazing souls who I have been blessed to come across and collaborate with in my life. I am beyond grateful for those who have been my guides through this experience and assisting me in writing this piece: Jatnna Amador; Kilan Ashad-Bishop; Helen Amanuel; Whitney Benns; Isabel Dau; Sabrina Debrosse; Wakumi Douglas; Karin Drucker; anneke dunbar-gronke; Berbeth Foster; Barbara Ghartey; Nadege Green; Alana Greer; Miriam Haskell; Meena Jagganath; Nerlande Joseph; Erika Marte; Julius Mitchell; Madhulika Murali; Emanuel Powell; Carrie Reynolds; Hannah Roth; Laura Lee Smith; Stephanie Tafur; and Vanny V. Thank you to the S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective and Black Girls Matter Coalition for all the work that they do to support Black girls and non-binary young people in building power and disrupting systems of violence in Florida. I also have to highlight the guidance that I have received from Nadege Green and Wakumi Douglas, two amazing women who have supported me through this writing process and who show up time and time again to support and uplift the Black community in South Florida and beyond. Finally, I would like to thank all of the Black girls and their peers who continue to fight for what they know that they deserve.

*Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Robeson, in Blacks 496, 496 91987).