NBCDI Statement on the Criminalization of Black Children

The latest heinous act against a Black child happened in Orlando, Florida when a six-year old Black girl was arrested on September 19, 2019 for "throwing a tantrum” in her first grade class. The police handcuffed her, put her in the back of a police car and took her to a juvenile detention facility where she was fingerprinted and her mugshot was taken.

Most adults who come face-to-face with the criminal justice system are never the same. Imagine the fear and trauma experienced by this little girl. She was forcibly taken, all alone, from her school and classmates by what had to seem like hostile strangers, unable to have any contact with her family and treated precisely like an adult criminal. The trauma is real and unfortunately, lasting beyond this horrible occurrence. Now, imagine this was your child.

Data from the Child Welfare League of America indicates that numerous children die each year due to restraint procedures while numerous others suffer serious physical harm. Psychological effects on children placed in restraints such as handcuffs range from short-term impacts, such as fear and an adrenaline rush of physical confrontation, to long-term effects, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The explicit racism that leads to the inhumane treatment of our babies must end. As a community, we must ensure that parents and families know their rights and demand change.

Through our “Delivering on the Promise of Effective Early Childhood Education” Initiative, NBCDI is fighting to end preschool suspensions and expulsions of Black children and the criminalization of them that sends our children on the trajectory of the preschool-to-prison pipeline. All children deserve to learn in affirming and inclusive classrooms.

Our babies are not criminals, they are children. They deserve education systems that are prepared to embrace and teach them instead of scare and punish them. Act with us—now—to ensure the criminalization of Black children ends. Join a Community of Practice dedicated to this issue in your state.


Tobeka G. Green

National Black Child Development Institute

President and CEO