The statistic for Fort Worth schools is disturbing: 62 percent of girls suspended in the district are black, even though just 23 percent enrolled are black.
As troubling as this information is for a local school district, it’s important to put it into context.
Information documented by U.S. News and World Report indicates black girls in every state are more than twice as likely to be suspended as white girls.
The practice is something of a national epidemic.
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Fort Worth school trustees acknowledge the concern is not new, and they’re taking steps to do something about it.
The district recently approved spending $163,500 to contract with Girls Inc. of Tarrant County for a program designed to build confidence in girls from all ethnic groups and to emphasize skills that create leaders.
Providing young women with academic support and important life skills is important.
We hope the district is doing that much and more to also provide teachers and district staff with an awareness of cultural differences that might lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions and the unnecessary suspension of these girls.
The National Women’s Law Center has taken a look at some of the underlying issues that result in the suspension of black girls and found they are often stereotyped as “angry,” “aggressive,” “promiscuous,” and “hypersexualized.”
The NWLC’s report entitled, “Stopping School Pushout,” said these stereotypes are at odds with what society deems “feminine behavior.” The response by educators is to treat differences with discipline.
Another 2017 study by the Georgetown Law Center found “adults view black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers,” and that can also lead to more severe discipline.
Just Google “black girls being suspended at school,” and you’ll find a long list of incidents that scream of punishment because of racial differences.
In a number of cases girls are singled out and punished because of ethnic hair styles. At a charter school near Boston, for example, school officials ordered detention for twin sisters when they came to class with long braids. Officials told the girls they couldn’t participate in sports.
The important point is that the girls should not be blamed and punished when the reason for punishment is cultural differences not bad behavior.
We don’t know why the suspension rate is so high in Fort Worth. Last year FWISD school trustees approved a program aimed at training employees to recognize and eliminate racial disparity. We hope that program will make a difference and reduce the inordinately high rate of black female suspensions.
We should educate the educators to know the difference between cultural differences and bad behavior. Then they can apply the proper remedy which is vital to assuring these young women complete school and have a fair shot at success.