A recent study out of Villanova University suggests that in addition to black males facing racial discrimination in school, black girls are also subjected to biases as well.
The author’s findings suggest that a girl’s skin color directly affects punishments received for behavioral issues while in school. On average, black females were found to receive harsher punishments for the same actions that white females were also found guilty of, writes Breanna Edwards for The Root.
The data confirmed the suspicions of one Georgia family. Two classmates, one black and one white, were both accused of taking part in the same incident, yet one received a disciplinary hearing and charges of trespassing while the other seemingly got away with it.
Mikia Hutchings, a 12-year-old African-American girl from Stockbridge, Georgia, considered a “great student” by her teachers with a report card to prove it, faced above-average punishment after being accused of writing “Hi” on a bathroom stall door at Dutchtown Middle School.
School officials charged both Mikia and her friend with vandalism in the incident, requiring that the girls each pay $100 in restitution and face a few days of suspension, according to Tanziga Vega for The New York Times.
While her friend paid the fee, Mikia’s family could not afford the money, and so, after her friend returned to school, Mikia’s grandmother and legal guardian was served with papers accusing the girl of defacing property and alerting the family to the fact that her misdemeanor charges could potentially become felony charges.
Mikia’s family made a deal that would see the charges dropped so long as the 12-year-old girl admitted to criminal trespassing, performed 16 hours of community service, and wrote an official apology to another student who had her shoes ruined in the incident.
According to Mikia, her only offense was writing the word “Hi” on a bathroom stall door, while her friend scribbled the rest of the graffiti. “I only wrote one word, and I had to do all that,” Mikia said in a recent interview. “It isn’t fair.”
Michael J. Tafelski, the lawyer who represented Mikia, said he does not see this type of situation occur with white children.
“I’ve never had a white kid call me for representation in Henry County,” Tafelski said. “What kid needs to be having a conversation with a lawyer about the right to remain silent? White kids don’t have those conversations; Black kids do.”
A similar incident just outside of Henry County saw Sakinah White’s teenage daughter expelled from school after being accused of hitting a white male student with a book. In addition, criminal charges were filed.
According to White, her daughter became suicidal over the incident, only getting better after the charges were dropped and the school changed its mind concerning her expulsion.
The problem, says Jamilia Blake, an associate professor of educational psychology at Texas A&M University, is that some school officials associate negative behaviors with darker skin tones. She went on to say that many young Black females are thought of as “unsophisticated, hypersexualized and defiant.”
These thoughts cause Black girls to receive harsher punishments as they are considered as having been disrespectful or rude, according to Taylor Gordon for The Atlanta Blackstar.
As for the parents of Mikia’s friend? They did not see race as playing a role in the incident, saying they were able to move on after paying the restitution without making a “fuss.”
Edward Perkey, Mikia’s friend’s father, said the school told him to “take care of the damages, pay for the damaged shoes” and promised that they would “move on past this” if he followed through.