Study: Biased Principals Are Why Black Students Are Four Times as Likely as White Ones to Be Suspended for the Same Behaviors

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A new study has exposed the discriminatory practices in the American education system.

The research found that Black children are more often disciplined and more severely punished by principals when doing the same behaviors as white children.

school to prison pipeline
A new study says the way principals discipline Black students fuels the school-to-prison pipeline. (Photo: Pixnio)

Shoshana Jarvis, a Ph.D. psychology student at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote the study along with Dr. Jason A. Okonofua, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley. They studied how 85 principals and assistant principals solved hypothetical issues concerning a student who was misbehaving in class and sent to their office, according to the study obtained by MarketWatch. In each case, the disciplinary issues were labeled as either the student’s first offense or their second one. The ages of the students or whether the principals work at elementary, middle or high schools were not specified.

Additionally, the students’ names were randomized based on the race they stereotypically sounded like based on prior research. Names for a male student, for example, were “Greg” or “Darnell.”

On average, principals and assistant principals gave Black students with a first disciplinary offense 20 percent more severe rating than white students who also had their first offense. When it came to the second-time disciplinary issues, administrators were 29 percent more severe with Black students than white ones.

“Further, this discipline severity was explained through Black students being more likely to be labeled a troublemaker than White students,” read the abstract for the study, which was conducted in 2017 and published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science on Oct. 10, 2019. “Future efforts should focus on principals in order to mitigate the negative impacts of the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The severity of the disciplinary action the study found could explain why Black students are four times as likely to be suspended or expelled from school compared to white ones, according to the research. A separate study published in February in the Journal of Crime and Justice builds on prior research that shows Black students are suspended three times more often than white students in elementary, middle and high schools. They also face disproportionate amounts of expulsions and suspensions over actions like disrespect.

“The more students fall behind, the less likely they are to graduate from high school or enter college and the more likely they are to become incarcerated, a growing concern called the ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’” the researchers of the current study say in the document.

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