Columbia Law School study: Black girls face extreme inequality at school

7 Feb

Joan Gausted of the University of Oregon has an excellent article in Eric Digest 78, School Discipline:

School discipline has two main goals: (1) ensure the safety of staff and students, and (2) create an environment conducive to learning. Serious student misconduct involving violent or criminal behavior defeats these goals and often makes headlines in the process. However, the commonest discipline problems involve noncriminal student behavior (Moles 1989).

The issue for schools is how to maintain order, yet deal with noncriminal student behavior and keep children in school.

Rebecca Klein of Huffington Post reported in Report: Black Girls Face Extreme Inequality At School, But Little Is Being Done About It:

Black girls around the country were suspended from school six times more often than their white counterparts during the 2011-2012 school year, even though they only represent a small share of public school enrollment. Black boys also faced disproportionate rates of discipline, but to a lesser degree. They were suspended at three times the rate of white boys.
These are some of the findings of a new study released Wednesday by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and Columbia Law School Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, which looked at racism and sexism faced by black female students using data from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
Despite these inequities, a myth persists that generally, “black girls are doing well,” Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the executive director of the AAPF and a professor at Columbia University Law, told The Huffington Post.
Crenshaw said she believes that school districts around the country mistreat black girls, but little effort has been put into fixing the problem. The new report used data from Boston and New York schools as a lens into the issue, and conducted interviews with teachers and students to bolster its statistical findings….

Here is the press release from the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies:

Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected

February 4, 2015—Girls of color face much harsher school discipline than their white peers but are excluded from current efforts to address the school-to-prison pipeline, according to a new report issued today by the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies.

The report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, is based on a new review of national data and personal interviews with young women in Boston and New York. Read a copy of that report here.

“As public concern mounts for the needs of men and boys of color through initiatives like the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper, we must challenge the assumption that the lives of girls and women—who are often left out of the national conversation—are not also at risk,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, the report’s lead author.

Crenshaw, a leading authority in how law and society are shaped by race and gender, argues that an intersectional approach encompassing how related identity categories such as race, gender, and class overlap to create inequality on multiple levels is necessary to address the issue of school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline.

The study cites several examples of excessive disciplinary actions against young black girls, including the controversial 2014 case of a 12-year-old in Georgia who faced expulsion and criminal charges for writing the word “hi” on a locker room wall. A white female classmate who was also involved faced a much less severe punishment.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education cited in the report, nationally black girls were suspended six times more than white girls, while black boys were suspended three times as often as white boys.

Data specific to New York and Boston demonstrates that the relative risk for disciplinary action is higher for Black girls when compared to white girls than it is for Black boys when compared to white boys.

● In New York, the number of disciplinary cases involving black girls was more than 10 times more than those involving their white counterparts and the number of cases involving black boys was six times the number of those involving white boys, despite there being only twice as many black students as white students.

● In Boston, the number of disciplinary cases involving black girls was more than 11 times more than those involving their white counterparts while the number of cases involving black boys was approximately eight times those involving white boys, despite there being less than three times as many black students as white students.

● Rates of expulsion were even more strikingly disproportionate between black and white students, especially among girls.

The report recommends policies and interventions to address challenges facing girls of color, including revising policies that funnel girls into juvenile supervision facilities; developing programs that identify signs of sexual victimization and assist girls in addressing traumatic experiences; advancing programs that support girls who are pregnant, parenting, or otherwise assuming significant familial responsibilities; and improving data collection to better track discipline and achievement by race/ethnicity and gender for all groups.

Click  below to access to the report, the executive summary, and a Black Girls Matter: Social Media Guide, which provides images, tweets, and key messages for you to use in promoting the basic point that Black Girls Matter.


Click to access BlackGirlsMatter_Report.pdf

Executive Summary

Click to access BlackGirlsMatter_ExecutiveSummary.pdf

Social Media Guide

Click to access BlackGirlsMatter_SocialMediaPacket+%283%29.pdf

Suburban normed or middle class youth may dabble in hip-hop culture, but they have a “recovery period.” The “recovery period” for suburban youth means moving from deviant norms, which preclude success into mainstream norms, which often promote success. Suburban children often have parental and peer social pressure to move them to the mainstream. Robert Downey, Jr., the once troubled actor is not necessarily an example of hip-hop culture, but he is an example of the process of “recovery” moving an individual back into the mainstream. Children of color and low-income children often do not get the chance to “recover” and move into mainstream norms. The next movement for them after a suspension or expulsion is often the criminal justice system.

The focus at this point should be how best to address the behavior issues that resulted in the disciplinary action. It is important to contact the district to find out what types of resources are available to assist the student in overcoming their challenges. Many children have behavior problems because they are not in the correct education placement. Often, moving the child to a different education setting is the beginning of dealing with the challenges they face.


Discipline In Schools: What Works and What Doesn’t?

Education Rights

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