Black Students Black Teachers, Black Students Punishment, black teachers black students, featured, News, Race, Racism In Schools -

When Teachers Are Black, African-American Students Are Suspended Less Often

Black Students Black Teachers, Black Students Punishment, black teachers black students, featured, News, Race, Racism In Schools -

When Teachers Are Black, African-American Students Are Suspended Less Often

via flickr.com
via flickr.com

Racism seeps into schools in many ways. Studies have shown that Black students are put into remedial education at a higher rate than white children. They are also much more likely to be left out of accelerated education than white or Asian students. Additionally, Black students are routinely disciplined more harshly and more often than their white peers. And according to a new study, this disparity can be simply solved: Black students need more Black teachers.

Data from the United States Department of Education has revealed a years-old pattern: Black students face disproportionately harsher punishments, like suspension and expulsion, than do their white counterparts. The new study, published in Education Next, shows that Black students are less likely to receive these harsh punishments like detentions, suspensions or expulsions when their educators are also Black.

In the study, researchers from American University and University of California-Davis analyzed the demographics of teachers and their students, as well as student disciplinary data for North Carolina elementary schools from the years 2008 to 2013.

“There is little evidence of any benefit for white students of being matched with white teachers,” says the study. In an illustration of how racism often works for adults, the white children are treated as a sort of default by white teachers, while the Black children are often unfairly stereotyped and treated, leading to the disproportionate discipline.

Researchers found that 16 percent of Black male children in the study were given exclusionary discipline when their teachers were white women. However, when the Black boys were taught by Black women, it was 14 percent. This number dropped even further when Black boys were taught by Black men.

“This effect is driven almost entirely by black students, especially black boys, who are markedly less likely to be subjected to exclusionary discipline when taught by black teachers,” notes the study.

Additionally, Black female students were also less likely to be given detention, suspended or expelled when their teachers were Black women, according to the findings of the study.

“What’s interesting there, is even though the results are pretty small, they’re consistent. We cut the data a few different ways and it’s consistent with different types of school, whether suburban or urban,” said co-author of the study, Constance Lindsay.

Researchers did not find any connection between the teacher’s race and white children.

This is consistent with the findings of the race-based implicit associations tests, created by researchers at Harvard University. The test is designed to track implicit, unconscious and split-second reactions that people have to pictures of with Black adults and white adults, or Black children and white children.

According to the website, “Results from this website consistently show that members of stigmatized groups (Black people, gay people, older people) tend to have more positive implicit attitudes toward their groups than do people who are not in the group, but that there is still a moderate preference for the more socially valued group.”

In other words, Black people tend to have more positive unconscious attitudes about other Black people, or in the instance of the study, to Black children. Meanwhile, there is still a bias for the white children, which is why they are not treated worse by their Black teachers than the white ones.

What’s more, studies have shown that exclusionary disciplinary practices are a catalyst that push students into the school-to-prison pipeline, which hurts Black and Hispanic children far more than it hurts white children.

Lindsay, however, speculated about why Black students were less frequently subjected to exclusionary discipline when they have Black teachers: “It could be something that black teachers do that’s just different when it comes to classroom control,” Lindsay said. “Maybe in different contexts, behavior is treated differently. Maybe black students act differently with black teachers. And it could be implicit bias white teachers have.”

The Implicit Associations Test website also notes that “Implicit preferences for majority groups (e.g., White people) are common because of strong negative associations with Black people in American society. Black people are often portrayed negatively in culture and mass media, and there is a long history of racial discrimination in the United States.”

So, because white people often have a bias against Black people because of stereotypes found in the media, white teachers may more quickly assume a Black child’s emotion is aggression, or read their behavior as poor without trying to find the source, for example.

Lindsay said the results of the study show that more diversity among teachers is necessary. However, hiring more Black teachers should not be as difficult as it has been in the past. And despite efforts and initiatives to get more Black and brown teachers in the classroom, white teachers remain the vast majority of teachers, despite the fact that the majority of America’s students are now Black, brown, or otherwise non-white.


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