With disparities presenting as early as pre-K, it’s also abundantly clear that there is something deeply wrong in how schools and teachers view those students who are subject to harsher and more frequent punishment—students with disabilities, black students, and boys. Beyond making school a hostile environment, harsh discipline that takes students out of the classroom can change the trajectory of their life. There’s research showing kids who are subject to out-of-school suspensions are more likely to fall behind, drop out, or encounter the criminal justice system—all consequences that can affect lifetime earning potential.
But beyond a murky sense of unconscious or conscious bias, the root causes of these disparities—and how to remedy them—doesn’t seem all that clear. A new report from the National Women’s Law Center aims to help fill in that gap, homing in on one underlying origin of the discipline disparity between black girls and their peers: dress codes.