Black girl students reprimanded for behavior no one else was

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An Ohio University study watched a Texas middle school for two years and arrived at the conclusion:

Among the findings of the study: black girls who actively sought out the positive attention of their teachers in class by asking questions were reprimanded by teachers, while boys and girls of other racial and ethnic groups behaving similarly were rarely disciplined in the same manner for their actions.

“As teachers, we are taught to encourage student curiosity and confidence because they’re great indicators of academic engagement. If our own unconscious stereotypes are prompting teachers to ‘correct’ those behaviors in young black girls, school systems need to look carefully at including this problem of teachers’ perceptions and assumptions in their diversity training,” said Taneika Taylor, director of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition’s Children As They Are program.

One reason why educators might emphasize “ladylike” behavior unfavorable to academic success has to do with their perception of black female students as prematurely adult — particularly with regard to their sexuality.

A lot of the females, especially Black females here, try to have some authority over me in class. I say to them ‘Uh-uh—I’m the only adult in here.’ But they think they are adults too…” said Ms. Duncan, a teacher at the observed school.

The study found that many teachers described black female students as too sexually provocative in dress and behavior, a finding consistent with a 2004 study which found that girls of color are pre-tracked for underachievement because of teacher beliefs that they are hypersexual and willing to invest more energy in their appearance than in academic pursuits.

The F-Word Blog (linked below) gave some good coverage. I don’t have anything to add, really; it’s good to see someone applying research methods to uncover the invisible privilege of applying a different set of rules to one group than to another. But how to get people to change their behavior is a whole other issue. I can already hear the rationalizations.

[Via F-Word Blog]

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