Last week, it became publicly known that a 15-year-old Black girl, known as ‘Child Q’, was the victim of state-sanctioned sexual assault and racist gendered policing, which were a violation of her human rights. We as a collective are enraged, traumatised, and deeply dispirited to learn that this had happened to Child Q. As an organisation that works with schools to abolish current systems and introduce transformative justice and BlackCrit practices and thinking, we have seen first-hand what happens when radical and transformative practices do not exist in a school. This is seen in the egregious failures that led to Child Q’s unlawful strip search.
In the 36 page report by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP), we read how she was adultified, subjected to misogynoir, racially profiled, and criminalised by her teachers, school, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), and the State.
Racial Profiling & Policing in Schools
Racial profiling is a form of violence because it infringes on Black people’s ability to move freely and without fear in public spaces. Racial profiling is also a direct violation of the enjoyment of many human rights. Within the realm of racial profiling is the tactic of using the ‘smell of weed’ to control and criminalise the Black existence in public space. Such acts are profoundly and inherently anti-Black. They are used as justification for the criminalisation, scrutiny, surveillance, frequent interruption, racialised police intervention, and violations of Black people’s human rights. These are systemic issues that we can bring to a swift end with the complete abolishing of the police. Until that day comes, we are demanding that there be no police in schools.
Police presence in schools triggers and causes race-based anxiety for young Black students. Additionally, the introduction of police as ‘officer friendly’ in schools (especially in primary school) serves as a broader effort known as ‘copaganda’. This powerful and dangerous PR tool endeavours to frame and show the police and policing as an institution that ‘serves and protects’ the public.
The myth of Black criminality has enabled the police to have unfettered authority over Black communities and people for decades. This means that the police have been given access that is quasi-legal to illegal powers to conduct unlawful searches upon Black people. In London alone, 9,088 children were subjected to strip searches whilst in custody between 2016 to 2021. Of those children, a disproportionate amount of Black children were subject to strip searches. This is why we call for a complete end to strip searches; they leave deep scars of humiliation and degradation on Black children and adults who have been subjected to them.
We see how Black children, especially Black girls, are treated in the British education system through our work and caseload here at BLAM UK. This has a real and lasting mental health impact on Black girls as it perpetuates ongoing racial trauma and affects their racial esteem during incredibly formative years in their lives. In our casework, a young
Black girl was accused of smelling like vape smoke and was made to show her bra to four different teachers, one being male, and kept in a room without food, water, or the ability to call a parent before she was excluded. We successfully challenged the exclusion, although she had to move schools.
Misogynoir, Adultification, Spirit Murdering, and Hair Discrimination
School is a hyper-violent space for Black students and, in particular, for Black girls. Black girls continue to be adultified, criminalised, and spirit-murdered by educators who enact racially discriminatory school disciplinary policies. Child Q represents the real human impact of anti-Black education policies, practices and standards, which destroy the experience of Black children in educational institutions.
Scholars such as Hines and Wilmot, and Love highlight how the white Euro-Western education system commits acts of spirit-murdering of young Black children every day. Instead of creating affirming, nurturing, motivating, engaging, and equitable learning environments for Black students, schools, participate in actively destroying the racial esteem and spirit of Black children.
Actions like strip-searching a young Black girl for ‘smelling like weed’ are spirit-murdering, as we know that Child Q went from an outgoing and bubbly teenager to a withdrawn and timid young girl. That is how deeply and quickly spirit-murdering can occur in a space where children are meant to learn and grow with safety and care.
Due to the intersecting systems of oppression, we must look into and call out the misogynoir and specific racist gendered violence Black girls face. Black girls are much more vulnerable as they are often excluded from conversations of racism or sexism, which creates intersectional invisibility that marginalises them. Instead of being protected by her teachers and school, teachers and the police met child Q with excessive punitive disciplinary action because she is a Black girl.
The indignities against Child Q represent an education system entrenched in anti-Blackness and punitive behaviour policies and measures. It is why abolition in education is so important. We must move away from legitimising and upholding the carceral state and its lust for punitive ‘justice’ to a system entrenched in transformative justice practices that deal with harm through accountability and community healing. We must allow children to be children and have the joy and carefree happiness of being children. Society, education, and teachers must stop replicating systems of violence and harm through racist ideologies, practices, beliefs, and policies. Serious unlearning of harmful biases and conflict resolution needs to happen at all structural levels. We can only resolve institutional failings through institutional rebuilding. Our current models of education and ‘status quo’ school policies that fail to see the far-reaching effects of the harm they cause to Black students, especially Black girls, need to be dismantled entirely and abolished and replaced with a new and innovative system that make education what it is meant to be, a place to learn and grow knowing you are supported through both your mistakes and your successes. We demand to end this system. There should be no police in schools, and strip searches must end.
We want to end this by addressing our Little Sister Q, who we hold in our arms and heart at this time. Healing will come. Your community of Black sisters stand with you and are thinking about you. There is resistance in healing recovery, and there is resistance in you taking the time to give yourself that deep love and care as you navigate your feelings and emotions since that day. When you weep, we weep; when you laugh, we laugh. This journey is your journey. Only you can dictate and shape it. But rest assured that you are truly cherished and loved forever and always. You are all our Little Sisters; our sweet Black girls deserve childhoods filled with joy, laughter, and magic.
A longer version of our statement is available here and includes resources.