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The Impact of Adultification-"When we only see things from our perspective, we miss how it makes children feel". This is having a severe impact on Black girls. Dr. Sheka Houston & Dr. Tammy Taylor

A study produced by the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law found that adults view young Black girls as less innocent than their white peers as early as 5 years old. This research came from studies of Black boys and how they are viewed as less innocent as early as age 10. This biased view causes Black girls to be perceived as needing less nurturing, less protection, less support, and less comfort, and viewed as more independent, and more knowledgeable about adult topics, including sex. In the REALL Academy, our weekly broadcast on Saturdays at 10:30 am EST, we break down what can be done to preserve Black girls' innocence, preventing them from facing harsh punishments at higher rates in schools or homes. We do this using our REALL framework, rooted in proven improvement strategies. REALL stands for Respect, Excellence, Accountability, and Leadership.


Respect


Respect is the door to our framework and concerns relationships, climate, and culture. If we are preventing the adultification bias of Black girls, do we know what this looks and sounds like to them? In episode 135 of The REALL Academy, I reference two examples. One describes how a 14-year-old Black feels when she is called aside for wearing leggings, but none of her white peers are called aside for wearing the same types of leggings. The second example is about a 13-year-old Black girl who forces herself to look happy even when she is sad so that she isn't percieved negatively. She doesn't want to appear like a Black person who wants to "start something". Since adultification isn't limited to school, an example was also included about a Black girl who was asked to clean the family car, while her brothers weren't asked to do anything. She felt even worse when her family ate food inside the car without any regard for her having cleaned it.


We are responsible for staying abreast of the research for those who are in our care as leaders, teachers, and parents. With this information, we have to examine our practices. After we examine our practices, we have to encourage others to examine their practices as well.


Excellence


The next part of the framework is excellence and ensuring that the things we do in schools are done at high levels. To promote the spirit of excellence within our black girls, there are a few things that we can do. Firstly, we need to empower and encourage them. We should get to know them, understand their strengths, and help them use those strengths to be okay with who they are. Secondly, we need to expose them to opportunities to learn and grow. This can be achieved through mentorship and helping them feel comfortable in their own skin. Lastly, we need to allow people to appreciate and love them for who they are. This will help them to be themselves without the fear of shrinking away. We need to show them that they are loved, cared for, and nurtured. By doing this, we can mentor them and help them become very impactful young individuals.


Accountability


The third part of our framework is accountability. Being equipped with the statistics on the adultification of Black girls, we need to make sure that we are accountable for making other people aware of it. We're accountable for assessing ourselves on where we are with this. As a parent, I try to make sure that I don't take away my children's childhood by bombarding them with things that I or another adult in our home should be doing. They have their chores, but I don't extend them beyond what is appropriate for their age. We have to make sure that we maintain this balance. As a leader, this is information I could add to my parent newsletters.


In our schools, it's crucial to ensure that other adults are aware of the research on adultification. Once we're aware, we need to reflect and create a space for others to do the same. It's essential to examine the disciplinary infractions of Black girls in our schools and compare them to their counterparts. Is there adult bias at play here? By understanding adultification, we can be more conscientious in our practices.


Literacy


The fourth aspect of our framework is literacy, which involves providing opportunities for children to read, write, and express themselves through poetry, singing, TikTok dancing, and other culturally relevant activities. Often, our giftedness lies in these activities, and we need to embrace and understand them. While teaching the foundations of reading and writing is crucial, we want to empower children to become owners of their learning. When they own their learning, we can support and scaffold them in any way they need. Books and activities that empower Black girls and allow them to express themselves authentically in their writing or other authentic assessments could be very helpful to their development and help teachers gain a better understanding of them.


Leadership


As leaders, we must be accountable and proactive in addressing any issues that arise in our schools as it pertains to adultification. We need to carefully analyze data to identify potential problems and then work with faculty and staff to correct them. It's important to approach these conversations with the right messaging and to have constructive feedback at the ready. While blanket statements can be helpful in some situations, we need to be specific when addressing individual concerns. Our goal should be to provide a positive example for our students and colleagues. We need to be the kind of leaders who inspire others to do their best and to build one another up. By modeling this behavior, we can help our students develop healthy habits and learn how to affirm one another, which is also empowering for them. In doing so, we can create a supportive and nurturing environment that benefits everyone. If you missed episode 135 of The REALL Academy check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/live/IzsFnNve0BQ?si=f9KbCnJ4DhZ9uN-5



The REALL Framework was created by the Leadership DoctHers, Dr. Sheka Houston and Dr. Tammy Taylor to provide a common practice and a common language for growth and improvement in schools. Leaders are using the framework to organize common leadership tasks providing them with best practices for success. Teachers are using the framework to organize their classrooms and connect to students who use the framework to lead their lives. The framework is complemented with empowering posters, PBIS posters, and "gear" that can be used for incentives.









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