The disproportionate out-of-school suspension of Black students is a persistent racial and social justice issue nationwide. We approached this issue sensitized by social construction and critical race theories. Thirty-one youth, 28 caregivers and 19 educators participated in in-depth, semi-structured audio recorded interviews. Most participants viewed racial bias and cultural differences as responsible for the disproportionate suspension of Black youth. Many highlighted educators' negative attitudes toward Black students. Students and caregivers argued that Black students are treated more harshly than White students and are targeted as disciplinary problems. These perspectives suggest that racial bias results in a school culture that pathologizes Black students and their families. Educators also described challenges to responding to student misbehavior including the cultural diversity of the Black student population and their disproportionate exposure to social problems such as poverty that impact school engagement. We discuss implications for how social workers may support the partnering of caregivers, educators and community members to reduce racial bias in schools.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was funded by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs , Agricultural Experiment Station , Gamble-Skogmo endowment (University of Minnesota) and Spencer Foundation . The authors also would like to thank Mallerie Shirley, Abigail Henderson, Timothy Warren, Parmananda Khatiwoda, and Kelly Evans for their help with data collection and analysis.
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
- Critical race theory
- Disciplinary practice
- Racial disproportionality
- Social construction