Abstract: Addressing School Pushout of Black Girls: Towards an Intersectional Approach to Trauma Informed Practices in K-12 Schools (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Addressing School Pushout of Black Girls: Towards an Intersectional Approach to Trauma Informed Practices in K-12 Schools

Friday, January 13, 2023
Valley of the Sun C, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Andrea Joseph, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Patricia Bamwine, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee
Jane Sanders, PhD(c), MSW, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Nationally, Black girls are the only group of girls disproportionally suspended. Data from the 2017-2018 academic year reflect that, Black girls, compared to White girls, have 4.19 times the risk of receiving an out-of-school suspension, 3.99 times the risk for expulsion, 3.66 times the risk for school-based arrest, 2.17 times the risk for restraint, and 5.34 times the risk for school transfer for disciplinary reasons. Multi-tiered interventions such as restorative justice practices and positive behavior intervention systems are increasingly used to address discipline disparities. Given the association between ACEs and negative academic outcomes, schools are also using trauma-informed practices and emergent research is linking disproportionate experiences of trauma with disproportionate discipline. However, further research is needed to ensure disciplinary policy and practice is responsive to student demographics (ex. race, class, gender) and the type of adversities experienced.

The current study was guided by the research question: “what types of ACEs are Black girls more likely to experience compared to other girls”. Using intersectionality as our framework, we present the integral role of systemic sexism and racial discrimination on ACEs for Black girls and why school-based responses to ACEs cannot be generalized. We offer the need for an intersectional approach to trauma-informed practices with Black Girls.


This secondary data analysis used 2016-2019 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (n= 63,674). Pearson’s chi-square test of independence was performed to determine within gender group differences across types of ACEs. Black girls (n = 4,157) were compared to White girls (n = 49,068), and separately to other girls of color (n=5,470) across each ACE. ACEs included: Family income difficulty, Parent divorce, parent death, parent incarceration, domestic violence, neighborhood violence, parent mental health difficulty, parent drug use, child’s experience with racial or ethnic discrimination.


Chi-square analyses demonstrated significant differences in the types of ACEs Black girls experienced compared to White girls and non-Black girls of color. There was a statistically significant difference between race and each ACE category. Black girls made up a greater proportion of girls experiencing 7 out of 9 ACES including: family income difficulty: White girls - (X^2 =224.54, p <.001) other girls of color (X^2 =84.11, p <.001); Parent divorce: White girls - (X^2=258.92, p<.001) other girls of color (X^2=150.99, p<.001); Parent death: White girls (X^2=185.17,p<.001) other girls of color (X^2=61.01,p<.001); Parent incarceration: White girls (X^2=365.82,p<.001) other girls of color (X^2=110.82,p<.001); Domestic violence: White girls (X^2=75.23,p<.001) other girls of color (X^2=6.50,p<.001); Neighborhood violence: White girls (X^2=163.16, p <.001) other girls of color (X^2=29.08, p <.001); and Racial or ethnic discrimination: White girls: (X^2=1.8e+, p<.001) other girls of color (X^2=33.01, p<.001).


Black girls make up a greater proportion of girls experiencing many childhood adversities compared to their female counterparts across race. To appropriately support Black female students, policy and practice should attend to these unique and disproportionate experiences of adversity. Discipline practices and school-based trauma-informed practices must also attend to the historical and ongoing gendered and racialized systemic inequities informing the adversities affecting Black girls.