Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 63

RACIAL BIAS AND DISCRIMINATION: STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS DISPROPORTIONALITY IN DISCIPLINE HEAD-ON Racial disparities in discipline are stark in California with 3 times as many black students being suspended as their white peers. Racial disparities are even higher when analyzing suspensions for subjectively defined offenses, such as willful defiance, versus suspension for other more serious and less subjective categories.56 This is cause for alarm because studies on race and school discipline do not support a conclusion that such disparities are based on African American students having higher rates of misbehavior, and do provide evidence that they receive harsher punishments than white students receive for the same behavior.57 In implementing alternative discipline strategies, it is equally important to mindfully assess the existence and causes of such disproportionate disciplinary treatment and use proactive strategies with any alternative approach that address the issue head on. What are some of the causes of disproportionate treatment in discipline and how can they be proactively addressed? A myriad of overlapping factors cause disproportionate treatment: Implicit Racial Bias Implicit prejudices are social preferences that exist outside of conscious awareness or control. We are all affected, in one way or another, by the society in which we exist. 56 For offenses involving weapons, drugs and violence resulting in injury, white students were suspended at a rate of 1.6 students per 100 white students and black students were suspended at a rate of 4.5 students per 100 black students. This is a gap of 2.9 suspensions. However, when analyzing data for “willful defiance” (Cal. Ed. Code 48900(k)), white students were suspended at a rate of 2.4 suspensions for 100 white students, whereas black students were suspended at a far greater rate of 10.1 suspensions per 100 black students. This is a gap of 7.7 suspensions. Dan Losen and Tia Elena Martinez, 2013 57 Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Skiba et al., 2002 Implicit prejudice is understood to reflect associations between social categories (e.g. Black/White, old / young) and evaluations (e.g. good/bad, smart/dumb) Implicit bias means people are not aware of the prejudices they have. The vast majority of people with implicit bias hold no explicit bias. Conditions that encourage perpetuation of implicit bias are akin to the conditions in which teachers and administrations frequently operate, such as time constraints, ambiguity, cognitive overload/ busyness, and lack of attention being paid to tasks at hand Social class, generational, and experiential differences increase the divide and subsequent misunderstanding between African American students and their teachers and administrators, even those with similar ethnic backgrounds. Cultural conflicts exist between many African American students’ culture and the dominant culture of the schools they attend. For instance, many African American students are accustomed to engaging in multiple, varied tasks simultaneously when outside of school. If a school’s instructional activities are structured around working silently and on one activity at a time, some African American students may be perceived to be v