Statistics Show Darker-Skinned Black Girls Punished More Severely Than White Girls in School

Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill
Dark-skinned Black elementary- and middle school-aged girls are three times more likely to be suspended than their light-skinned counterparts  

We've known for years that Black boys and men are punished more severely than other races for the same offenses. A recent story from The New York Times confirms the same for Black female students.

The Times report tells the story of 12-year-old Mikia, a Black child who was suspended--along with a White student--for writing on a wall in a bathroom stall at their Georgia school. The White student's parents were ordered to pay $100 in damages to the school, with no further consequences. However, Mikia's family was told that they could not pay the $100. Instead, Mikia had to attend a disciplinary hearing and was charged with a trespassing misdemeanor. In exchange for a clean record, Mikia was put on probation and had to complete 16 hours of community service in her town. 

Throughout the country, elementary- and middle school-aged Black girls are suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared to their White counterparts, who were suspended only 2 percent of the time. 

"When a darker-skinned African-American female acts up, there's a certain concern about their boyish aggressiveness," said Villanova sociology professor Dr. Lance Hannon. Additionally, Texas A&M professor Dr. Jamilia Blake says that in society's eyes, Black girls are viewed as "unsophisticated, hypersexualized and defiant."

Georgia Legal Services has filed a complaint to the Justice Department on Mikia's behalf. The school district told the Times that it was unable to offer a comment, but it is examining its disciplinary procedures.

"The message we send when we suspend or expel any student is that that student is not worthy of being in the school," said Catherine E. Lhamon, Department of Education's assistant secretary for civil rights. "That is a pretty ugly message to internalize and very, very difficult to get past as part of an educational career."

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