Girls of Color Also at Risk of School-to-Prison Pipeline, Study Finds

While efforts to address the school-to-prison pipeline tend to focus on boys and young men of color, girls and young women of color also face many of the same challenges, a report from the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies finds.

The report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected (53 pages), argues that zero-tolerance policies result in disproportionately high rates of out-of-school suspensions for African-American girls and undermine their achievement in and attachment to school. According to federal data, African-American girls were six times as likely to be suspended as their white counterparts in the 2011-12 school year, while African-American boys were three times as likely to be suspended as white boys. The report found similar patterns in New York City and Boston public school districts, with far higher rates of disciplinary action, suspension, and expulsion among African-American females than among their white counterparts and wider racial disparities than between black males and white males.

Based on focus groups and stakeholder interviews in the two cities, the study also found that, in addition to disciplinary procedures, societal and institutional factors may contribute to underachievement and high dropout rates among girls of color. Factors that disproportionately affect girls of color, such as stereotyping or neglect by teachers, an unsafe school environment in which sexual harassment and bullying go unaddressed, security procedures that make girls feel less safe,  familial responsibilities, and teen pregnancy prevent even high- and moderate-achievers from engaging fully in school and pursuing their educational goals.

Funded by the Schott Foundation for Public Education, Atlantic Philanthropies, the NoVo Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations, the report calls for reform of policies that funnel girls into juvenile supervision facilities, with a focus on counseling and other conflict intervention strategies; developing programs that identify signs of sexual victimization and assist girls in addressing traumatic experiences; advancing efforts to support girls who are pregnant, parenting, or otherwise encumbered by significant familial responsibilities; and improving data collection to better track discipline and achievement by race/ethnicity and gender.

"Report: Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected." Atlantic Philanthropies Press Release 02/10/2015.