In a bizarre speech this past Wednesday, Charles T. Epps, Superintendent of the Jersey City Schools, placed the blame for the community’s problems squarely on the backs of one group—young girls.

During Wednesday’s speech, Epps addressed about a dozen members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Jersey City & Vicinity when he began discussing the $1 million per year the district spends on school police. According to Epps, the district’s “worst enemies” aren’t gangs or kids who bring weapons to school, but rather the district’s young women.

“Our worst enemy is the young ladies,” Epps said. “The young girls are bad. I don’t know what they’re drinking today, but they’re bad.”

Although Epps was speaking to a group of pastors, no one seemed to bat an eyelash over his comments.

Continuing unchallenged, Epps talked with members of the clergy about his efforts to find “mentors” for the district’s students through a collaboration with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Epps praised employees from JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs for signing up to mentor some of the kids in the district.

Or as Epps explained, “They’ve signed up to help even the dirty, nasty, bad kids.”

Wait, what?

Despite Epps’ admission that violent incidents in schools “break down evenly” among male and female students, he choose not to talk about the shortcoming of all of the district’s students, but instead threw the young female students under the bus.

Even though this type of rhetoric—blaming women and girls for society’s problems—is completely ignorant, it is not uncommon. In a rebuttal to Epps’ comments, Darnell L. Moore, visiting professor of gender and sexuality at NYU, and Dr. Aimee Cox, assistant professor of African American and African studies at Rutgers, argued that Epps should be reprimanded by city officials for his verbal attack on female students.

The professors wrote:

“What is most alarming about Epps’s diatribe is the sexist undertone that shaded his comments. He specifically singled out young females — the majority of whom happen to be black and brown in his district — as foe. Epps’s rhetoric mirrors the sneers of those who have historically imagined women (black, brown and poor) as the cancer eroding the core of the traditional family, as ‘welfare queens’ wreaking havoc on the taxpayer’s pocket, and as the ‘baby’s having baby’s’ who either neglect them or abort them altogether. Epps added to the list a new nomenclature in naming young females in JCPS the ‘enemy.’ His actions should not go unpunished.”

I could not agree more.

As an educator, Epps’ comments are not only blatantly sexist, but also extremely appalling. We cannot expect our youth to become successful adults if we continue to tear them down and label them anything less than capable.

What do you think of Charles T. Epps’ remarks? Sound off!


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