It’s been six decades since the seminal Brown v. Board of Education court case that integrated public schools across the country, but current research shows that African-American girls still face major disparities in the classroom, which put them at a disadvantage.
A report released Sept. 30 by the National Girls’ Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund shows that African-American girls are being disciplined at higher rates than White students. However, there is no evidence showing that Black girls misbehave any more than White girls, which researchers believe is related to racial and gender stereotypes.
The study came to the conclusion that the negative perceptions of African-American females influence teachers to punish those students at a higher rate because it is believed that they require greater social correction.
An analysis of data from Ohio’s K-12 system in the 2013-2013 school year, for example, shows that the rate of out-of-school suspensions for disobedience was 16.3 percent for Black female students compared to 1.5 for White girls. The rate of out-of-school suspensions for violence was 7 percent for African-American females and 0.8 percent for White females.
The study also pointed out that White students are punished more for severe violations, such as smoking and vandalism, while Black girls are punished for less offensive acts, including loitering and loud noise.
In addition to African-American girls facing harsher punishments, there is evidence that Black girls suffer from a lack of adequate resources, which hinders their educational opportunities. The data points out that there is a strong correlation between students who live in poverty and those that attend schools that lack adequate resources.
African-American girls in many cases attend schools that don’t offer STEM courses. The data showed that 57 percent of African-American high school students attend schools with advanced science and math classes, compared to 71 percent of White high school students. Not attending schools with a challenging curriculum discourages students from going into science and engineering fields later in life.
Despite the disparities African-American girls face in school, there was one positive takeaway from the study. According to the report, Black girls were more likely to consider themselves leaders in comparison to Hispanic and White girls.
The report did outline suggestions going forward to rectify the inequality African-American girls face in schools. To address the resource disparity, the report suggested that lawmakers should implement policies that ensure funding is distributed equally in all schools and that STEM and common core curriculum are put into schools.
To correct the discipline disparity, the report recommended that policymakers require schools to keep data of school discipline broken down by demographics, enforce positive behavior incentives and better train school personnel.
Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president of the Legal Defense Fund, said in a press release the report shows the need for change.
“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.