In 2013, a 12-year-old black girl was threatened with expulsion if she didn’t change her natural hair to fit school standards. In 2014, another 12-year-old faced similar threats after writing “hi” on a locker room wall. In 2007, a 6-year-old was arrested – yes, arrested – for having a tantrum in a Florida classroom.
All of this according to a new study done by the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia University, and originally covered by Vox.
Based on data taken from schools in Boston and New York, the study finds that 12% of black girls have been suspended, while only 2% of white girls faced the same punishment.
The statistics become even more shocking. In New York schools, 90% of girls expelled from school were black, while no white girls were expelled at all.
“No white girls were expelled, and thus, no ratio can be calculated,” the study reads. “But the magnitude of the disparity can be captured by simply imagining that one white girl had been expelled. Were that the case, the ratio would be 53:1.”
The numbers are similar in Boston. 63% of female students expelled were black, while, again, none were white.
It has been well documented that black males face disciplinary action in schools at a much higher rate than their white peers. The Department of Education noted that black students were three times more likely to be suspended than white students during the 2011-2012 school year. That disparity is no laughing matter, and serious work needs to be done to understand how, exactly, that gap occurs, and what can be done to balance it.
But the discrimination faced by black girls has been largely undocumented until now, and appears even worse, since black girls are suspended six times more often than white girls.
“The particular disparities facing Black girls are largely unrecognized in the mainstream discourse about punitive policies in public education,” the report reads. “Consequently, efforts to confront the challenge of ensuring equitable and fair opportunities for Black girls in school remain underdeveloped.”
The report highlights several examples of black females facing unfair punishment that would be hard to imagine falling on their white peers.
“There is this one story where a girl got a lot of attention from a boy, and he kept pressuring her for sex, and her father was trying to get teachers to help his daughter,” one student told the researchers. “He was saying that she can’t go to school anymore if you don’t do something, and the teachers were like, ‘good, take her out, she attracts too much attention for our boys’.”
The report emphasizes a need to address these problems head-on, and for educators to recognize barriers of both race and gender that many US students face.
“The disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for black girls reflect an overlooked crisis that affects not only their life chances, but also the well-being of their families, their communities, and society as a whole.”