The Racial Gap in School Discipline Is Widest for Girls

There has been a number of studies showing that African American youth are more harshly disciplined at school that children of other racial and ethnic groups. For example, see this JBHE post and also this post. Most of these studies focus on school suspensions and expulsions.

New research authored by Brea L. Perry, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, and Ed Morris, associate professor of sociology at the University of Kentucky, offers new data on the racial discipline gap in regards to gender for students who are sent to the principal’s office for disciplinary reasons. The study of middle and high school students in a large urban district, found that Blacks girls are three times as likely as White girls to be sent to the principal’s office. The authors found the biggest disparities are for low-level offenses such as disobedience, disruptive behavior, and inappropriate dress.

Dr. Perry observes that “Black girls are disproportionately vulnerable to getting office referrals for these relatively minor offenses. This is an area where there’s a lot of discretion on the part of teachers or other staff. They may just give a warning, or they may give a referral.”

Blacks boys are only twice as likely as White boys to be sent to the principal’s office. Black girls are sent to the principal at the same rate as White boys. “The gender benefit – the protective role of gender – is completely erased for Black girls,” Dr. Perry notes.

The full article, “Girls Behaving Badly? Race, Gender and Subjective Evaluation in Discipline of African American Girls,” appears in the April 2017 issue of Sociology of Education, a journal of the American Sociological Association. The article may be downloaded by clicking here.


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