Dark-Skinned Black Girls Suspended 3x More Than Light-Skinned Girls


Today, the New York Times ran a crucial piece about school-age girls and the massive disciplinary imbalances that effectively segregate them, both by race and also by skin color. Tanzina Vega’s report begins with the case of Mikia, a 12-year-old in Georgia who was caught vandalizing a school bathroom with a friend. Both girls were suspended from school, but Mikia’s friend faced no further punishment after her parents paid restitution. Mikia’s friend is white; Mikia is black, and her case went down like this:

Mikia had to face a school disciplinary hearing and, a few weeks later, a visit by a uniformed officer from the local Sheriff’s Department, who served her grandmother with papers accusing Mikia of a trespassing misdemeanor and, potentially, a felony.
As part of an agreement with the state to have the charges dismissed in juvenile court, Mikia admitted to the allegations of criminal trespassing. Mikia, who is African-American, spent her summer on probation, under a 7 p.m. curfew, and had to complete 16 hours of community service in addition to writing an apology letter to a student whose sneakers were defaced in the incident.

Vega lays out evidence that this type of racially-informed discrimination is not just anecdotally alarming but common, widespread, and statistically undeniable.

Data from the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education show that from 2011 to 2012, black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls, and more than girls of any other race or ethnicity. In Georgia, the ratio of black girls receiving suspensions in the same period compared with white girls was 5 to 1, and in Henry County, that ratio was 2.3 to 1, said J D Hardin, the spokesman for the county’s school district. And researchers say that within minority groups, darker-skinned girls are disciplined more harshly than light-skinned ones.

Specifically on that last point, data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health suggests that darker-skinned black girls are suspended from school at three times the rate of their lighter-skinned peers. And so the particular American pipelines of punishment and opportunity continue, on and on unto our end.

Image via Shutterstock.

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