Black girls disproportionately punished by the education system

Black students are disproportionately reprimanded in the education system. This is mostly seen among elementary, middle and high school (K-12) students, according to a 2018 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Although black boys are included in the overrepresented group of punished students, research shows that black girls are punished and criminalized at an alarmingly higher rate than non-black girls in school, including suspensions and expulsions .

In 2017-2018, “black girls were the only group of all races/ethnicities for girls where a disparity was observed. Black girls received in-school suspensions (11.2%) and out-of-school suspensions (13.3%) at rates nearly twice their share of total student enrollment (7. 4%),” the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said in a 2021 report.

Racial and gender stereotypes contribute to the abuse black girls experience. Part of this is rooted in the idea that adults, such as teachers, view black girls as “less innocent” and “more adult” than their white counterparts. It can lead adults to think that black girls don’t need as much protection or education, Erin Killeen said in “The Increased Criminalization of African American Girls.”

“Such comments demonstrate that stereotypes of black girls, interpreted as ‘loud’, are imbued with adult aspirations and seen, in turn, as a threat,” said Rebecca Epstein, Jamila J. Blake and Thalia González in a published report. by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Jamelia Harris, Robert Curvin Postdoctoral Fellow at the Joseph C. Cornwall Center at Rutgers University-Newark, works with The Concrete Rose Project. This is a research group after high school. In this group, Harris leads the girls to discern potential root causes of the patterns of disproportionality they face and black high school girls in general.

Harris explores the role of intersectional violence and education in the lives of black girls in urban communities. For example, she had done and analyzed a lot of research focused on the treatment of black girls in the education system and how racial and gender stereotypes contributed to the punishment of black girls.

Harris said black girls are criticized for things like responding, having an attitude, inappropriate dress and emotional expression. These are some of the reasons the girls at The Concrete Rose Project said they experienced discipline.

Another reason black girls may be targeted is due to a cultural mismatch between educators and black female students. The high school attended by the Concrete Rose Project girls had a predominantly black and Latino population, but most of the teachers were white. A lack of understanding or familiarity of black girls by white teachers caused these girls to feel perceived as ghetto or inferior.

“Black girls were being punished for behaviors that in many ways, if a white girl exhibited them, would be celebrated as leadership qualities like standing up for their views,” Harris said.

She added that the high school attended by the girls in the search group had one of the highest suspension rates for black girls in the state of California, at around 19%. However, black girls in New York are going through something similar.

“Outside of New York, schools were 6.1 times more likely to suspend black female students than their white peers, and in New York City, the school district was 8.6 times more likely to suspend black female students than their white peers. an article by Tiffany Lankes of the Education Trust-New York, a research and advocacy group, said.

Greater awareness of what black girls experience in schools is growing. Harris said black girls are the growing population of the juvenile justice system. “There’s a pattern of criminalization that doesn’t get as much exposure as when it comes to black boys and men,” Harris said.

Not only does the treatment of black girls affect the likelihood of them ending up in jail, it has other serious consequences. Black girls can end up having economic instability, mental health issues, compromised academic achievement, and being afraid to speak their minds. Silence is to avoid contradicting those in positions of power.

“We find that many of the ways that black girls are culturally socialized to navigate the realities of heteropatriarchal white supremacist society are condemned in schools through disciplinary policies,” Harris said.

To help minimize or eliminate the punishment Black girls receive, educators can work to build better relationships to improve the learning environment. Harris said she has a counseling agency where she partners with educators and school districts across the country to challenge their biases. She engages them in thinking about positionality and suggests opportunities they can take to uplift and shine a light on black girls.

“I encourage educators to prioritize relationships and compassion over punishment,” she said.

Janice G. Ball