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Study: Black Girls In Massachusetts Schools Disciplined Four Times As Often As White Girls

School buses lined up.
Chris Devers
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/cdevers

A new study finds that Black girls in Massachusetts public schools are disciplined at a much higher rate than white girls — about four times as often.

The report was released by the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. Its executive director, Deborah Silva, noted that injustice against Black boys and men has been the focus of recent activism.

"We were curious about this significant population that was being kind of ignored, which is the girls," Silva said.

The Massachusetts report was released in conjunction with groups in Kansas and Alabama, where the disparities were also stark.

"I think some people think that [Massachusetts is] a liberal Northeastern state that might be paying closer attention to these issues," Silva said.

But even if the state doesn't have Confederate monuments, Silva said, there is still plenty of implicit bias against girls of color.

"How they might be considered more angry, more loud, more sexual," Silva said. "I mean, there's lots of stereotypes sort of in the air we breathe that I think all of us have internalized."

The report combined state and federal data from across Massachusetts. Next, researchers plan to collect stories of discrimination in particular cities, including Holyoke and Springfield.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Education, Jacqueline Reis, said in an email that "This is an area of continued work but...we are making progress."

She referred to an initiative that launched in 2016 designed to help schools "reduce inappropriate or excessive use of long-term suspension and expulsion, including disparate rates of suspension and expulsion for students with disabilities and for students of color."

Reis also pointed out a recent report from the Education Trust that showed a decrease in the suspension rate of Black girls in Massachusetts in the period from 2013 and 2018.

Karen is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998. Her features and documentaries have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, Third Coast Audio Festival Award, and the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize.
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