Why Black Girls Experience Harsher School Punishments Than Their White Peers

A recent study from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality has found that young Black girls are perceived as less innocent and more adult-like than their White peers, especially in the 5-to-14 age range. The researchers surveyed a large group of adults from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, but the participants were predominately White women. The participants were asked to answer a questionnaire about children’s development in the 21st century and were randomly assigned to a questionnaire about either Black girls or White girls.

Across all age ranges, the participants viewed Black girls as more adult than White girls. In particular, they viewed Black girls as needing less protection and nurturing and more knowledgable about adult and sexual topics than their White peers. This bias, the researchers suggest, may make adults less likely to believe or acknowledge Black girls’ accounts of sexual assault.

Additionally, Black girls who report sexual harassment are often told that it is their fault because of how they dress. A report from the National Women’s Law Center found that Black girls are much more likely than White girls to be removed from class or sent home due to dress code violations. They are also more likely to experience disciplinary consequences when they report that they had been sexually harassed. According to a report from Columbia Law School, when Black girls speak up about sexual misconduct, they may be viewed as “causing trouble” and are often punished rather than supported.

The findings from these three reports all suggest reasons for why Black girls disproportionately experience harsher discipline in schools than their White peers. The Georgetown report reads “Regardless of the specific context, all Black girls are entitled to, and deserve, equal treatment, including equal access to the protections that are accepted as necessary and appropriate for children. Recognizing the bias underlying the adultification of Black girls is an important step toward that goal.”


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Two Black Scholars Appointed to Faculty Positions

The new faculty are Esther Jones at Brown University and Dagmawi Woubshet at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is Established at Bowie State University

"The new program will help to increase the number of counselor educators within the counseling field and the number of competent Black counselor educators," says Dr. Otis Williams, chair of the Bowie State University department of counseling and psychological studies.

Elizabeth City State University Partners With the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to Increase Representation of Black Graduate...

"We are excited by this partnership with UT Health Science Center and the opportunities this brings to our students who wish to pursue advanced degrees," said Kuldeep Rawat, dean of the Elizabeth City State University School of Science, Health and Technology.

Kimberly White-Smith Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Teacher Education

“Through her leadership and scholarship, Dr. White-Smith inspires a new generation of teachers to serve students and approach their work with equity, compassion, and respect,” said Gail F. Baker, provost and senior vice president at the University of San Diego. 

Featured Jobs