Excerpted From: Leah A. Hill,  Disparities: Black Girls and the School-to-prison Pipeline, 87 Fordham Law Review Online 58 (2019) (37 Footnotes) (Full Document)


LeahHillRecent scholarship on the school-to-prison pipeline has zeroed in on the disturbing trajectory of black girls. School officials impose harsh punishments on black girls, including suspension and expulsion from school, at alarming rates. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights reveals that one of the harshest forms of discipline--out of school suspension--is imposed on black girls at seven times the rate of their white peers. In the juvenile justice system, black girls are the fastest growing demographic when it comes to arrest and incarceration. Explanations for the disproportionate disciplinary, arrest, and incarceration rates for black girls range from implicit bias by school and law enforcement officials to structural risk factors, like poverty. Scholars point to disproportionate discipline, arrest, and incarceration rates as evidence of a system that fails black girls by pushing them out of school and into the juvenile justice system, thereby ultimately placing them at risk for a range of adverse life experiences. Black Girls and School Discipline

When school officials impose exclusionary discipline, defined as any disciplinary practice that removes a student from school, they place those students on a path to the school-to-prison pipeline. Several years of data from the U.S. Department of Education reveals that black girls suffer more frequent and more severe punishment than any other female demographic. The most recent data available indicates that black girls who attend public schools experience the harshest forms of punishment at disproportionate rates. They are more likely to be suspended from school, more likely to suffer corporal punishment, and more likely to be physically restrained. School officials impose more severe punishments on black girls as soon as they enter the public school system as preschoolers, where despite being 20 percent of the population, they represent 54 percent of female preschool students receiving one or more out of school suspensions. Discipline disparities for black girls persist in elementary, middle, and high school. Black girls are also more likely to be expelled from school, pushing them out of the education system for good. In one particularly stunning example, New York City's public school data revealed that black girls constituted 90 percent of all girls expelled during the 2011-2012 school year, and that no white girls were expelled during that time. discipline is just one part of a longer story about black girls and the school-to-prison pipeline. Under zero tolerance policies in public schools, black girls are also more likely to be referred to law enforcement agencies and arrested. Given this data, it is easy to understand the increased presence of black girls in the juvenile justice system, and the recent revelation that black women represent the fastest growing prison population. . .]

The emerging body of research on the devastating discipline disparities for black girls has led to a groundswell of interest among scholars. Many have offered solutions, ranging from minimizing disciplinary discretion to mentoring and teacher training. The time is ripe for examining potential solutions to the school-to-prison pipeline for black girls and I look forward to contributing to this discourse in the near future.

Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Clinical Associate Professor at Fordham University School of Law.