Black girls are being kicked out of the nation’s schools at alarming rates.
In every state across America, Black girls are twice as likely to be suspended from school as white girls, according to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center.
The reason: Racist and sexist stereotypes fostered by narrow-minded educators and school officials.
In its new report, “Stopping School Pushout for Girls of Color,” the group compiled education data from every state.
“It’s official: schools are pushing Black girls out of the classroom in every single state,” according the group’s website. “Research tells us that girls are facing extremely high rates of harassment and violence, discrimination, trauma, and stereotyping. How have schools and policymakers responded? By implementing girl-centered policies, supports, or resources? No. By suspending girls.”
It’s a troubling pattern: Black girls are nearly six times more likely to be suspended than white girls and Black girls usually receive more multiple suspensions, more than any other race of gender of students.
Consider this stunning statistic: In the District of Columbia, where Black girls represent 73 percent of girls enrolled in school, Black girls are nearly 18 times more likely to be suspended than white girls.
In New Jersey schools, Black girls are more than eight times more likely to be suspended than white girls. In Michigan, Black girls are 6.7 times more likely to be suspended; 5.2 times more likely to be suspended than white girls in Georgia; and 4.9 times more likely to be suspended in Utah. In Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, Black girls are nearly nine times more likely than white girls to be suspended.
Racial bias was the only reason offered for this pattern of mistreatment.
“Stereotypes of Black girls and women as ‘angry’ or aggressive, and ‘promiscuous’ or hyper-sexualized can shape school officials’ views of Black girls in critically harmful ways,” the authors of the report wrote.
The report said Black girls are more often punished for their interaction with teachers.
“Ironically, the quality of assertiveness generally has led to positive public perceptions of black women in leadership roles,” the authors wrote. “However, in the school setting, assertiveness can often be misidentified as ‘talking back’ or ‘defiance,’ which puts them at greater risk for inequitable discipline.”
The report says all girls of color — Black girls, Latina girls, and Native American girls — are disproportionately suspended from school compared to their white peers. The disproportionate discipline rates result in lost class time and increased school pushout.
“Black girls face high and disproportionate suspension rates across the country – and it’s not because they are misbehaving more frequently than other girls,” Neena Chaudhry, director of education at the women’s law center, told reporters. “This uneven discipline is often the result of deeply ingrained racist and sexist stereotypes that push Black girls out of school.”
So what should be done to correct this serious problem in the nation’s schools?
The report recommends educating teachers about bias and enforcing policies that deter discrimination. The group also says school funding in minority areas should be increased.
But ultimately, America’s teachers and school administrators will have to change the culture of classrooms that foster detrimental stereotypes of Black girls. It’s a vexing concern with overcrowded schools, underpaid teachers and dwindling resources.
And here’s what’s worse: Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Education Secretary, may not have the capacity to address a problem that focuses on race – or perhaps she doesn’t care.
What do you think?