Black Girls are Twice as Likely to Be Suspended: Help Find Solutions

Black girls are twice as likely to be suspended in every state, and it’s not because of more frequent or serious misbehavior, a bold headline in U.S. News and World Reports states.

For years, this statistic has stood out to educators, raising great concern nationwide. 

In 2012 the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found there were “disproportionate suspensions of girls of color: While boys receive more than two out of three suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates (12%) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys; American Indian and Native-Alaskan girls (7%) are suspended at higher rates than white boys (6%) or girls (2%).”

That fact was reaffirmed by the National Women’s Law Center, as it reported “national data shows that Black girls are 5.5 times more likely and Native American girls are 3 times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls. In addition to these barriers, girls of color are more likely to attend under-resourced schools that are not culturally competent or personalized to their needs or interests, which negatively affects their educational opportunities and future earnings.”

“The overrepresentation of Black and Latina girls receiving school discipline is alarming,” wrote National Black Women’s Justice Institute President Monique W. Morris. “These findings further demonstrate why we must have promising and effective responses for our girls of color that co-construct safety through a lens of cultural competence and gender responsiveness.” 

Taryn Finley, reporting for The Huffington Post, wrote, “a study published by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality in June [of 2017] showed that adults view young black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls starting as young as age 5.” 

Study lead author Rebecca Epstein previously told HuffPost that the racial biases black girls face must be addressed. “The consequences of entering the juvenile justice system can’t be ignored,” Epstein told HuffPost. “As we know, it can change the course of a girl’s life. But despite these startling statistics, there’s precious little research about why this different treatment happens; why are black girls subjected to more discipline and greater contact with the juvenile justice system?”

In order to better understand and find solutions to this growing problem, AFSA has joined forces with a researcher at the University of Memphis. Roslyn Bacon, a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, is asking the question: Is there a relationship between an administrator’s Benevolent and Corrective Humor score and the suspension rate of African American females?

Her argument is that if administrators had a propensity for benevolent and corrective humor, they would be less likely to suspend African American females. 

“Although many administrators have a healthy sense of humor, they have rarely been encouraged to use it, particularly when in direct contact with students,” says Bacon. “Benevolent and corrective humor is a concept that makes space for the use of humor in an encouraging, supportive and compassionate way. It is neither judgmental nor dismissive and is in alignment with restorative justice practices.”

To test her hypothesis, Bacon has developed a survey for school leaders to examine whether or not there is a correlation between a principal’s benevolent and corrective humor score and the suspension rate of African American females. 

Take part in the survey by clicking here.