Researchers say Black girls are disproportionately punished and say it’s seen in school and the justice system.
A new report from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville is sounding the alarm about the way Black girls are disciplined and sometimes criminalized in Florida schools.
“While Black girls do not misbehave any more than their peers, they are being punished more harshly,” said Vicky Barsa, the president and CEO of Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center. “The result? More Black girls than any other ethnic group are being suspended, arrested and jailed.”
The study finds, while Black girls make up 21% of the girls living in Florida, they account for nearly half of the girls suspended from Florida schools and nearly half of those who come in contact with law enforcement at schools.
In the last five years, 1 in 4 Black girls were eligible for a civil citation but were arrested instead. Hundreds were under 12 years old.
James Muwakkil, the president of the Lee County NAACP, says these statistics show the legacy of systemic racism.
“America has been taught to believe that Black people are evil,” Muwakkil said. “That Black people are criminals, that Black people deserve what they get be it right or be it wrong, so the Black female is not immune to that.”
“There are obviously disciplinary actions that are less volatile as opposed to out of school suspensions and arrests,” Vasha Tolbert said.
Tolbert’s daughter, Charlie, is 8 years old. She says she thinks behavioral intervention programs, more conversations with parents and cultural trainings for school personnel and law enforcement are ways to combat these statistics.
“Unconscious bias plays a large part into why there’s harsher punishment,” Tolbert said. “A large part of this has to do with training, the lack thereof and accountability.”
The study found, in Lee County, Black girls make up 14 percent of the total population but 29 percent of total arrests.
Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is pushing to ban suspension of pre-k through third grade students and set limits on arrests of children under 12 among other suggestions.
MORE: Sounding the Alarm: Criminalization of Black Girls in Florida