While there is ongoing attention regarding the unfair discipline black boys face both in school and in the criminal justice system, a recent study indicates that black girls also face discrimination when it comes to school discipline.
According to data from the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education, black girls in public elementary and secondary schools were suspended at a rate of 12% from 2011 to 2012, while their white counterparts were suspended at a rate of only 2%. To take the context of discipline discrimination even further, researchers from Villanova University reveal that black girls with darker skin tones are three times more likely to be suspended than black girls with lighter skin tones.
“When a darker-skinned African American female acts up, there’s a certain concern about their boyish aggressiveness,” Villanova sociology professor Lance Hannon tells the The New York Times. Hannon also adds that there is a concern “that they don’t know their place as a female, as a woman.”
The New York Times detailed the experience of two middle school girls who both got in trouble for writing graffiti on the walls of a gym bathroom. While both girls were suspended from school and ordered to pay $100 in restitution, one student faced even further penalties when her family was unable to pay the restitution fee.
Mikia, who is black, had to face a school disciplinary hearing, and was paid a visit by an officer from the local Sheriff’s Department who served her grandmother with papers that accused the 12-year-old of a trespassing misdemeanor and potentially a felony. Eventually coming to an agreement with the state to have the charges dropped, Mikia admitted to the allegations and had to spend her summer on probation. She was disciplined by being placed on a 7 p.m. curfew, having to complete 16 hours of community service, and writing a letter of apology to a student whose sneakers were defaced during the incident.
Her friend, who is white, was let go after her parents paid the restitution.
“The felt experience of too many of our girls in school is that they are being discriminated against,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education.
“The message that we send when we suspend or expel any student is that that student is not worthy of being in school,” adds Lhamon. “That is a pretty ugly message to internalize and very, very difficult to get past as part of an educational career.”
SOURCE: The New York Times