Hammond is comprised of a student population of 37% African American students, 40% Hispanic and 13% White. We have 251 (7th grade) female students with 98 being African American. While reviewing the discipline data for our program goals, we noticed that 14% of our discipline referrals were for our African American girls compared to 1% for our White girls. As a result, we decided to take a closer look at the statistics and review outside data. In doing so, we found that nationally, 12% of black girls received at least one-in-school suspension, whereas the rate for white females/males were significantly lower. After comparing both sets of data, we decided our goal would be to decrease the number discipline referrals for our African American girls.
Disaggregated data revealed, ten girls (7th grade) as having three or more behavioral referrals and at least one suspension as a sixth grade student. While this number is low, we thought it would be a great start to identify and address root causes in order to inform support and provide guidance for current students and future scholars.
We decided to implement character based lessons to empower, build self-esteem and provide a toolbox of resources to assist with self-discovery and positive inspiration. We implemented several character based lessons but (2) of the lessons went extremely well and provided us with great insight on each individual.
The first activity was called the “Anger Bucket”. The anger bucket activity provided girls with a way of identifying their lack of self control and tools for dealing with it. Girls selected as many balls as they wanted to identify their anger. The girls were then led in a discussion about why the balls were in their bucket, what they represented and how to deal with it.
The second activity was celebration of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa activity focused on pride and self-awareness. The goal was for students to understand their role in their community and how to be a positive and productive member of their school community. They left the session understanding that their current behavior has a negative impact on the school community and identified new behaviors that will positively impact themselves and their school community.
The Dark Girls and Mirror Image activities focused on positive self-image and teaching girls how to love themselves. The goal was to begin to work on their self perception and changing it. When they love who they are, they will not let teasing and name calling provoke them to fight.
In an article titled: Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls, stated, “in a recent study of African American girls in New York City, the girls who had a strong racial identity-e.g, those who described themselves as “strongly in touch with their racial heritage”, were more likely than others to say that they were happy on a typical day, to indicate a serious commitment to their school work, to get good grades, and to express desire to go to college. They were also more likely to believe that they would ultimately achieve their goals (64 percent versus 21 percent) and to have healthy relationships.
This information was an inspiration to us, as it confirms the lessons we want to continue to deliver to our young ladies.
In May, 2015, the group ended and pre-post test data was disaggregated. The data revealed by the end of the first 9 weeks of school, 5 of the 10 students had received at least one behavior referral. By the end of quarter four, only one student had received one or more behavior referrals including suspensions (in-school and out of school). The girls also improved academically by improving their grade in at least one core class. Overall, 9 of 10 students had shown improvement academically and behaviorally.
Although the target group showed improvements in their behavior, the group attendance remains a concern. Some of the girls missed several sessions and although behaviors declined, as a result the group wasn't as impactful as it could have been.
A small group of girls were chosen to create and intimate and safe environment. Due to the topics discussed, next year we will increase the group number to 12 possibly in all grade levels. The group's co-facilitator also felt that attendance was a concern and suggested that we highlight attendance as a criteria for selection.