Gender Matters
School Discipline Hits Boys Hardest

Most of our public discourse on gender and education is focused on the way girls are given the short shrift—by being shepherded into non-STEM fields, for example, or by getting passed over in class discussions, or by facing disproportionate harassment and bullying. And while all of these may be real problems, it’s important to remember that classroom inequalities don’t just flow in one direction. The latest example: A new study finds that school disciplinary procedures have a lasting negative impact on boys’ educational prospects that they don’t seem to have on girls. U.S. News reports:

The way schools respond to boys’ behaviors plays a significant role in shaping their educational outcomes years later.

In fact, behavioral problems in early childhood have a larger negative effect on high school and college completion rates for boys than girls, according to a new study from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. They’re also less likely to learn and more likely to be held back in school.

“It suggests that something is going on in the school context that makes boys bear the brunt of school sanctioning,” says Jayanti Owens, assistant professor of sociology and public affairs at Brown and author of the report, published Wednesday by the American Sociological Association and the Sociology of Education. […]

“One of the big things that jumped out in the study was the fact that the same behavior problems in boys and girls were penalized a lot more in boys than girls,” Owens says.

Commentators like Christina Hoff Sommers have long pointed out that school disciplinary procedures, including discouragement of competitive or rough-and-tumble play, have an unhealthy impact on young boys. (And boys of color are more likely to be disciplined). It’s good to see this problem starting to get attention in the mainstream academic literature.
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