The Short of It
A recent story in the New York Times raises an important question about how black girls are disciplined versus white girls in schools across the country.
Between 2011 and 2012, 12 percent of female African-Americans attending public elementary and secondary schools were suspended, while just 2 percent of white females were, according to data from the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education.
But statistics only tell part of the story. To really understand this issue, consider what 12-year-old Mikia Hutchings of Georgia went through last year.
Mikia was suspended for writing graffiti on the walls of her school's bathroom. Since her family couldn't pay the $100 restitution fee, she was funneled into the juvenile court system and charged with criminal trespassing. A white young lady also took part in the vandalism, but her family paid the fee, and she faced no further consequences. In Georgia, the ratio of black girls receiving suspensions between 2011 and 2012 compared with white girls was 5 to 1.
Meanwhile, Mikia, who claims she only wrote the word "Hi" on the bathroom wall, had to plead guilty to the charge. But her ordeal wasn't over. The young girl spent the summer on probation and was forced to observe a strict curfew. No, that's not it. She also had to complete 16 hours of community service. No, that's not it. She was also forced to write an apology letter to a student whose sneakers were defaced during the incident.
The Hutchings have filed a complaint with the justice department claiming that Mikia was racially discriminated against and that her civil rights were violated.
But is this case more about the fact that the Hutchings family couldn't pay the restitution or their race? Or are black girls held to a different standard? And is Mikia's story just one of many like it across the nation?
In light of the racially charged indictment decisions involving the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, we simply can't ignore these questions.
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