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
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Sabrina will provide 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. 

School resource officers (“SROs”) and other school-based police exacerbate school pushoutespecially for Black girls, who are overrepresented in every aspect of school discipline. According to the most recent U.S. Department of Education data, Black girls have made up only 17% of the national student population in recent school years but have accounted for 39% of girls arrested at school. As victims of “adultification bias, Black and brown girls are often viewed as less innocent than their peersThis bias creates a barrier to connecting girls of color with the supports they need, such as mental health resources or even legal representationWhen paired with untrained officers and school policies that allow discipline to turn on subjective impressions of student behavior, this bias also leads SROs to harshly disciplinesexually harass, and exclude girls of color—ultimately pushing them out of schools and into the criminal justice 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 colorToday, 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 Plans

In an effort to stop school pushout at the hands of school-based police, Sabrina will pilot a telephone helpline service in seven identified priority states that students, parents, and schools can use to seek legal assistance related to discriminatory SRO actions. She will also collaborate with community-based organizations to engage in legislative advocacy and host know-your-rights trainings to raise awareness of how vague state laws and school policies contribute to the criminalization of girls of color. Over the course of her fellowship, Sabrinwill help schools and policymakers center girls of color in discussions about school safety and highlight how funds spent on SROs can be diverted to giving all children the resources they need to thrive. 

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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