Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Black Girls Matter: Counseling Black Females through a Servant Leadership Framework

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Black Girls Matter: Counseling Black Females through a Servant Leadership Framework

Article excerpt

Due to overwhelming dropout rates (Council of the Great City Schools, 2012; National Center for Education Statistics, 2015) and increased likelihood of incarceration (Council of the Great City Schools, 2012; Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2016), many school systems have created initiatives to enhance the success of Black male students (Joe & Davis, 2009). However, the needs and concerns of Black females are commonly ignored, stereotyped, or misunderstood by teachers, school administrators, and other educators (Rollock, 2007). Black female students are just as likely as Black males to experience opportunity gaps in schools (Gafford-Muhammad & Dixson, 2008) and to receive disciplinary referrals (African American Policy Forum, 2015; M. W. Morris, 2016; Smith-Evans & George, 2014).

Aspects of the school counselor's role are to remove educational barriers and advocate for all students (Feldwisch & Whiston, 2015); thus, school counselors are in ideal positions to promote systemic change for Black female students. Yet research examining school counselors' responsiveness to Black females' needs has been limited (Holcomb-McCoy & Moore-Thomas, 2001). Through mixed methodology research, the authors examine the unique needs of Black female students, clarify current practices in school counselor leadership in advocating for this population, and propose a new leadership framework for meeting the needs of Black females.

Concerns and Strengths of Black Female Students

Black females are often targets of systemic biases due to the intersectionality of gender and race. These biases are sometimes held by educators (M. W. Morris, 2016), potentially subjecting Black female students to stereotypes such as being "angry," "aggressive," or "promiscuous" (Smith-Evans & George, 2014). The strong Black female stereotype has contributed to this population being overlooked in the K-12 setting (Evans-Winters, 2005; Grant, 1984; E. W. Morris, 2007). Rollock (2007) found that educators generally viewed Black females as motivated and organized, requiring less "surveillance" and nurturing than their male counterparts (p. 199). Furthermore, some educators have assumed that Black female students are academically self-sufficient, requiring less educational support such as tutoring, performance monitoring, and goal setting (E. W. Morris, 2007; Rollock, 2007). However, research indicates that Black female students need mentoring and role models to be academically successful (Farinde, 2012; M. W. Morris, 2016). Moreover, these students require community support as they advance in their academic careers (Evans-Winters, 2005; Gafford-Muhammad & Dixson, 2008).

Currently, Black female students are not likely to graduate from high school with college credit (Smith-Evans & George, 2014). When registered in advanced placement (AP) courses, Black females often do not pass the standardized assessments (College Board, 2014; Smith-Evans & George, 2014). Black female students represent a small proportion of students enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) AP courses such as computer science, physics, and calculus (U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 2014). When Black females take STEM courses, they tend to receive lower scores on standardized assessments than their male peers (Hill, Corbett, & Rose, 2010).

Not only do they face academic challenges, but Black female students are disciplined at higher rates than their fellow classmates (M. W. Morris, 2016; Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2016). According to M. W. Morris (2016), Black females make up approximately 16% of the school-aged female population; however, they account for about one third of all females arrested on school grounds. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (2014) reports that Black female students are 6 times more likely to be suspended from school than White female students. …

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