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Frustrated mixed race student working in classroom

Source: JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty

A recent study sadly confirms what we already know to be true—African-American girls face serious racial bias when it comes to discipline in school.

According to new analysis conducted by the National Black Women’s Justice Institute, Black girls are more than SEVEN times more likely than white girls to receive an out-of-school suspension.

Even worse? While our girls account for a mere 16 percent of the female population in schools across the country, 28 percent were physically restrained, 43 percent were referred to law enforcement (2.5 times more likely than white girls) and 38 percent were actually arrested (four times more likely than white girls), the Huff Post pointed out.

This type of disparity also played out differently in different areas in the country:

  • In the South and the West, Black girls were five times more likely to face suspension than white girls 
  • In the South, Black girls were four times more likely to be arrested in school
  • In the northeast, Black girls were six times more likely to face suspension
  • The Midwest, Black girls were 10 times more likely to be receive 1 or more out-of-school suspensions and four times more likely to receive 1 or more in-school-suspsenions, arrests, or referrals to police

The institute’s president, Monique W. Morris, stressed that these findings should once again ring the alarm about this type of educational discrimation.

“The overrepresentation of Black and Latina girls receiving school discipline is alarming,” she said in a statement.

“These findings further demonstrate why we must have promising and effective responses for our girls of color that co-construct safety through a lens of cultural competence and gender responsiveness.” 

This is just one report of a few that have been published in the past year about this eye-opening issue.

A report published in May by the National Women’s Law Center, suggested that in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, Black girls were 8.5 times more likely to be suspended. In just Washington, D.C. alone, Black girls are 73 percent of the school population but 94 percent of all girls suspended. That’s a whopping 17.8 times more likely difference between them and white female students in the District.

According to U.S. News & World Report, that particular report noted the following as factors:

  • “Stereotypes of black girls and women as ‘angry’ or aggressive, and ‘promiscuous’ or hypersexualized, can shape school officials’ views of black girls in critically harmful ways.”
  • Black girls are punished for challenging what society deems “feminine” behavior, like being candid or talking back.
  • Implicit and explicit biases about black children’s behavior and capacity to learn.
  • Black students are more likely to attend under-resourced schools.

So to be clear: Just their very existence is perceived as a problem.

If anything this report calls for the need for more research around how girls of color are being unfairly treated in schools, especially given that that the majority of the work around the school-to-prison pipeline is primarily focused on boys.

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