Perspectives

“Black Girls Matter”- Study Shows Black Middle School Girls Get Disciplined More Often than White Students


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Students of color, students who don’t know English well and LGBTQ students are “vastly over-represented among students who face school disciplinary actions,” says Dr. Lisa Harrison and Dr. Theda Gibbs-Grey of the Patton College of Education at Ohio University.

This has led Dr. Harrison and Dr. Gibbs-Grey to launch a research study called “Black Girls Matter: Exploring the School Experiences of Middle School Black Girls Who Have Experienced School Suspensions.”

Discipline rates of Black girls far exceed those of white girls in the same classes.

“Instead of finding understanding, they get discipline,” says Dr. Harrison. This can have life-long impacts and contribute to high drop-out rates.

Harrison and Gibbs-Grey currently are following the progress of eight middle school Black girls at an Ohio school. They are conducting “school observations, interviews with the girls and their parents, as well as documenting their school disciplinary records,” Dr. Gibbs-Grey noted.

“We are also providing a year-long mentorship program that meets with the girls once per week for the school year,” Gibbs-Grey added.

The research has found school structures that work and those that don’t.

The researchers have found systems that need restructuring “to prevent negative academic and life outcomes for the girls locally and nationally who deserve much more,” according to Gibbs-Grey.

The two researchers hope to institute national and local changes in “school discipline and academic success among students who are marginalized.” They currently are in the seventh month of a year-long study.

Dr. Theda Gibbs-Grey has her doctorate in Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education with a specialization in Language and Literacy and Urban Education from Michigan State University.

Dr. Harrison has her doctorate from the University of Georgia in Middle School Education.