It's fairly common knowledge that black boys are suspended from school more often and face harsher disciplinary penalties than their white counterparts, and that what's known as the "school-to-prison pipeline," can have devastating lifelong consequences for them.
But new research by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and Columbia Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies suggests that race is an even more significant factor when it comes to how girls are treated in school.
The conclusion: The toll that harsh disciplinary policies and zero tolerance environments take on black female students deserves much more attention.
Here's one powerful example, based on data from schools in Boston and New York City, and published in the report, "Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected": researchers found that suspension rates for black girls when compared to white girls were even higher than those of black boys versus white boys. While black boys are suspended three times more than white boys — a pretty shocking disparity — black girls are suspended a staggering six times more than white girls.
Overall, a 12 percent of black girls in the study, compared to two percent of white girls, had been suspended. That's an enormous difference.
The researchers conclude that the way race, gender, and class issues work to push black girls out of school is tragically under-explored in conversations about racial educational disparities, which tend to focus disproportionately on the experiences of black boys.
"The particular disparities facing Black girls are largely unrecognized in the mainstream discourse about punitive policies in public education," the report's authors wrote. "Consequently, efforts to confront the challenge of ensuring equitable and fair opportunities for Black girls in school remain underdeveloped."
Read the full Black Girls Matter: Pushed out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected report (which includes proposals interventions and policies to combat the challenges facing girls of color) here.