5 steps for improving school climate for girls of color

Black girls are five times more likely than white girls to be suspended
By: | August 20, 2020
(GettyImages/Ridofranz)

School administrators can dismantle systemic racism and gender disparities by ending disciplinary practices and other policies that punish Black, Latina, and Native students disproportionately, a new report says.

The guide, “…And They Cared: How to Create Better, Safer Learning Environments for Girls of Color,” provides guidance in creating a positive and inclusive school climate for female students of color.

“Black and Native girls are unfairly disciplined at egregious rates, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” said John B. King Jr., president and CEO of The Education Trust, which developed the report with the National Women’s Law Center. “School and district leaders can act now to create better, safer school environments for girls of color by committing to engage in the necessary work of building an inclusive, anti-racist, and anti-sexist school climate.”

Black girls are five times more likely than white girls to be suspended at least once from school, while Native girls are twice as likely, the report says.


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High rates of suspension for minor offenses make students and teachers feel unsafe or unsupported, the report says.

School safety increase when leaders work with students and families to develop more equitable policies.

“Students deserve to learn without fear, especially during a global pandemic and a countrywide reckoning with racist police violence,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of National Women’s Law Center. “But racist school discipline policies continue to limit the learning opportunities and compromise the safety of Black, Latina and Native girls in this country.”

Here are key equity steps the report urges school leaders to take:

  • Use discipline data and make it publicly available
  • Eliminate racist and sexist dress codes
  • Implement student- and community-centered approaches to restorative discipline
  • Invest in support services for families, restorative justice programs, school counselors, and psychologists
  • Divest in school police or similar structures that criminalize students

The guide examines the work that has been done by the Chicago and Oakland school districts, and in the state of Massachusetts, to eliminate racial and gender disparities from school disciplinary policies.

It also offers a checklist for creating a more equitable climate.


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