A report from the National Women’s Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund released last week revealed that Black girls are often given harsher punishments than white students and also more likely yo be a victim of sexual harassment.
Why is this? It has to do with racial and gender stereotypes that have been engrained in our society for centuries. The report said that discipline disparities most likely occur because African American females are seen as ” loud, confrontational, assertive, and provocative.”
The graph below shows just how often Black girls are disciplined.
Not all states track school discipline data based on race and gender, but Ohio is one that does and their findings are saddening. Between 2012 to 2013 African American girls were disciplined often more than 10 times the amount of White females and for unsubstantiated reasons such as “disobedience/disruptive behavior.”
“The have different rules for us (African American girls) than they do for White and Asian girls. White girls and Asian girls can wear anything and get away with it, but they will send us to the dean for wearing the same thing,” noted one research participant. But it does not stop with dress, African American girls have also been disciplined due to their style of hair. You may remember the case when two African American girls were told their hair (afro puffs and dreadlocks) were not a part of the dress code.
Another sad reality is that African American girls are victims of sexual assault at a higher rate than their peers. Black females have been more likely to be held back and score lower on standardized tests, however the report mentions that often times this is due to the lack of experienced instructors and resources that typically plague schools with a high African American population.
In a statement released, Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund stated: “Our educational policies and practices must open the doors of opportunity for all -– regardless of race or gender. Only then will we fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark ruling that invalidated legal segregation in America 60 years ago,” Ifill said.
Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center told the Huffington Post that there was one bright spot the report showed and it had to do with Black girls taking on leadership roles.
“In fact, 53 percent of African American girls surveyed expressed a desire to be leaders as compared to 50 percent of Hispanic girls and 34 percent of Caucasian
girls .42 African American girls were also the most likely group of girls to consider themselves to be leaders (75 percent), and the most likely to have leadership experience (78 percent) .43 African American and Latina girls rated themselves more highly on “leadership skills” than white girls did .44 Yet opportunities for leadership are scarce for girls, even today.”
While the report shines light on major issues within the school system it also shows us just how strong African American girls are in the face of all they have to endure. What this does too is shows us, as parents, what areas we should be focusing on and reporting negligence that occurs within the schools we send out children to each and every day.