In her article “A different Standard for Black Girls”, Dr. LeConte Dill, Assistant Professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate School of Public Health and KAVI’s Research Director, discusses the growing disparities of black girls in an unfair educational system which renders black girls vulnerable and unsupported:
Nearly 40 years ago, a metaphor or fable, if you will, about “upstream-downstream” was created by healthcare practitioners to better explain and argue for the value of preventative health care measures. The fable describes a group of community members standing near a river who witness someone drowning. Some of the community members jump into the water and pull the person to the shore. As soon as they do so, they try to resuscitate her.
Then, another drowning person floats down the river; and as the community recruits more lifesavers, still more drowning people float past them. Eventually, someone thinks to go upstream to find out what was causing so many people to be pulled into the river. More recently this fable has been used as a metaphor for those lost in the midst of a failing educational system in an effort to get Americans to look upstream to see the sources of the problem; and to query why so many of the failing students are people of color.
If we think of those upstream determinants as structural barriers, what happens when girls of color are pushed out of educational systems that are supposed to support them? How can a path be cleared for them that serves as a bridge to economic stability, and optimal life outcomes? In a new report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Over-policed and Underprotected the African American Policy Forum examines these concerns in New York City and Boston. The report breaks down data by race and gender, and its findings are disturbing. In New York, for instance, in the 2011-2012 school year, Black girls were disciplined 10 times more often than White girls. In fact, in some settings Black girls were found to face a greater racialized risk of unjust punishment than Black boys.
Girls of color are often more harshly punished for non-violent offenses that educators have coded as “disruptive” and “disrespectful.” They are sometimes punished for behavior that would be viewed as innocuous for boys. For instance, one girl interviewed for the report explained: “Some of the girls did have this sense of frustration, that there is a different standard for girls’ behavior versus boys. So boys seem to just get more looking the other way, or more tolerance of even the exact same behavior.”