Photo of Sabrina Bernadel

Sabrina Bernadel

  • Hosted by National Women's Law Center
  • Sponsored by Danaher Corporation
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Georgetown University Law Center
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Sabrina provided legal services and legislative advocacy for girls of color to ensure access to education that is free of discriminatory discipline, harassment, and violence from school-based police.

Sabrina’s project addressed how school resource officers (“SROs”) contribute to the overrepresentation of Black girls in every aspect of school discipline and exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline. As victims of “adultification” bias, Black girls are often viewed as less innocent than their peers. This bias creates a barrier to connecting girls of color with the supports they need to thrive in school, such as mental health resources or even legal representation after facing discrimination. When paired with school policies that allow discipline to turn on subjective impressions of student behavior, this bias leads SROs to harshly discipline, sexually harass, and exclude girls of color—ultimately pushing them out of schools and into the criminal legal system.

As a first-generation Haitian-American, Sabrina grew up relying on spaces and mentors in schools to help her explore her identity as a woman of color. Today, she is dedicated to educational equity work as a means of keeping schools safe for girls of color as they similarly come into their own.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Sabrina:

  • Led in drafting two federal amicus briefs in support of Black students alleging racial discrimination in discipline, dress codes, hair policies, and school policing against their schools
  • Reviewed, edited, and collaborated with Congressional offices on at least 13 federal school climate or discipline bills that were set to be introduced in the 117th Congress
  • Authored a 21-page public comment on behalf of the Center in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for information on the “nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline”
  • Presented to over 600 partners and allies on the harms of exclusionary discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline, particularly for Black girls
  • Developed and assisted in the launch of a national campaign to end the pushout of Black girls called She Deserves Dignity
  • Extended the Center’s platforms to Black girls through focus groups, virtual panels and briefings, and social media to share their experiences and recommendations for safer, more inclusive school climates

Next Steps

Sabrina will continue to work at the National Women’s Law Center as Counsel of Education & Workplace Justice. She will grow the Center’s school discipline and policing portfolio as well as expand their resources.


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Will Democracy Keep Black Girls Safe?: The Protecting Our Students in Schools Act

Will Democracy Keep Black Girls Safe?: The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act

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Hair: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

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At a very young age, I witnessed my parents make significant sacrifices for me to obtain a quality education. Since then, I have viewed education as a powerful doorway to opportunity, the access to which should not depend on someone’s race, gender, income, or zip code.

Sabrina Bernadel /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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