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Black Girls and School Discipline: Four Researchers Unpack K-12's Racial Bias

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Most of the discussion around the disproportionality of black students' suspension or expulsion from K-12 schools has focused on boys. Only more recently have researchers begun to surface the numbers of black girls who are subject to severe disciplinary measures in schools, including by school resource officers.

According to federal data, black girls are suspended from school at a rate that is six times higher than that of their white female peers. In New York City and Boston, black girls represented 56 percent and 61 percent, respectively, of all girls disciplined in those cities’ K-12 schools, even as incidents of discipline against black girls go underreported. Black girls receive harsher criminal sentences than their white female peers do in the juvenile-justice system, and they also represent its fastest-growing population.

For this special Commentary package, Education Week Commentary sat down with researchers Adrienne D. Dixson, Shaun R. Harper, Bettina L. Love, and Terri N. Watson at this spring's American Educational Research Association conference to discuss their perspectives on this crisis.

ADRIENNE D. DIXSON
"I think student agency plays out in what teachers in school districts often misinterpret as misbehavior that I say is 'kid language.'"
SHAUN R. HARPER
"[Girls] really are pushed out of schools in some uniquely gendered ways that haven’t been fully considered."
BETTINA L. LOVE
"You're seeing African-American girls, which are only 16 percent of the school population, now accounting for a third of school suspensions and expulsions."
TERRI N. WATSON
"The challenge is not how do we change black girls, ... but how do we make sure that [schools] celebrate ... and view them as assets as opposed to problems."
Filmed by: Deanna Del Ciello, Interviewed by: Elizabeth Rich, Edited by: Erin Irwin

Vol. 35, Issue 32, Page 32

Published in Print: June 1, 2016, as Black Girls, Discipline, and Schools
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