A new study released by Columbia University Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies has found that racial bias may play a larger role in the discipline of girls than boys—and in Hamilton County, Chattanooga, Tennessee, where black girls are suspended five times as much as white girls, school officials are taking notice.
Via the Chattanooga Free Times Press:
The study by the Columbia Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies also found that race may play more of a role in the discipline of girls than boys. The researchers hope to broaden the conversation about racial bias in schools from focusing almost exclusively on black boys to also recognizing the risk for black girls.
Nationally, black girls are suspended six times more than white girls, according to the study, while black boys are suspended three times more than white boys.
The numbers are similar in Hamilton County. Here, 20 percent of all black boys were suspended during the 2013-14 school year, compared to 6.2 percent of white boys — meaning black boys are suspended at more than three times the rate of white boys.
Hamilton County school officials are reluctant to admit any racial bias:
Lee McDade, assistant superintendent of the Hamilton County Department of Education, said the circumstances of each suspension are unique.
"I don't care if they're purple, if they are disrupting class and the teacher can't teach and the kids can't learn, then we need to deal with them," he said. "To say I lumped one ethnicity or race in together is just not the case."
But Luke Harris, program director at the African American Policy Institute, said the gap in the numbers is too wide to be explained away and biases can influence all decisions, whether or not the decision-maker recognizes the bias.
Harris adds that one way to approach the data—and the bias—is to be "deeply, deeply introspective about it."
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