Race, Gender Play Role In School Suspensions

National Study Says African-American Girls Suspended At Higher Rate Than Whites; Wisconsin The Worst

Chairs in a classroom
DC John (CC-BY)

The National Women’s Law Center is out with a report that says African-American girls in Wisconsin are almost 12 times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls.

Wisconsin has the highest school suspension ratio in the country when comparing black girls to white girls. Misbehavior isn’t always the reason, said Neena Chaudhry, director of education at the National Women’s Law Center. The center recently put out the report showing suspensions for girls of color by school district from 2013-14.

“Unfortunately, all of us have biases — implicit, explicit biases — but we’re also hearing from girls around the country that there are dress and hair code violations that are particularly pushing girls of color out of school,” she said.

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The center’s report recommends districts look at suspensions by race and examine their discipline policies.

The state Department of Public Instruction already works with districts to track achievement and discipline, said DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy.

“So there are districts like Milwaukee which have been flagged as having disproportionality issues,” McCarthy said. “We’re currently engaged in working with how to design systems that counter those trends.”

In Wisconsin, black girls are 9.7 percent of females enrolled in school, but the center’s report shows they are 49.3 percent of girls suspended.

Wisconsin was one of 15 states where the ratio of black girls’ suspension compared to white girls’ surpassed the national 5.5 ratio.