The Role of Implicit Bias in the Overrepresentation of Males within the Public School System
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Disproportionality in the administration of school discipline practices is a national crisis that is receiving more attention from researchers, educators, and policymakers than ever before. Over the past four decades, research has consistently shown that African American students, and African American males in particular, are more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions and expulsions than White students. In addition to disproportionate exposure to punitive discipline, in educational settings across the US, African American male students have been, are continue to be, referred to and educated in special education programs at much higher rates than their representation in the total school population (Kunjufu, 1986 & Piland, 2002). Racial disparities in special education have sparked significant concern by researchers, educators, and policymakers for over four decades (Piland, 2002). Implicit bias - automatic, unconscious stereotyping and judgment - has been posited as a contributing factor for the overrepresentation of African American males in discipline within the public education system. The purpose of the proposed study is to examine empirically the contribution of implicit racial stereotypes to the overrepresentation of African American in school discipline. The first hypothesis is that participants in the African American student group will be more likely to endorse ratings indicating the need to refer the African-American child for special education services than participants rating the Caucasian student. Also, participants in the African American group are expected to provide ratings indicating need for harsher punishment, special education identification, and restrictive setting placement than participants in the Caucasian student group. The hypothesis related to the second research inquiry is that teachers’ implicit stereotype scores, as measured by the Implicit Association Test (IAT), will have an interactive effect with vignette group. Specifically, it is anticipated that the effect of implicit stereotypes on the expected referral, placement, and recidivism ratings will be inconsequential for participants exposed to the Caucasian male student vignette; however, there will be a significant difference in these ratings for the group of participants who are exposed to the African American male student vignette. Within the African American vignette group, participants that have higher IAT scores are expected to provide harsher expected referral, placement, and recidivism ratings than their counterparts with lower IAT scores. The final hypothesis guiding the current research is that the race of the participants will not moderate the effect of implicit stereotypes on the referral, identification, placement, and punishment ratings. This hypothesis finds much credence in the conflicting results of previous studies (e.g. Tobias et. al, 1982; Tobias et. al, 1983). The participants’ race is expected to show a negligible interactive effect, especially when the variance associated with implicit stereotypes is accounted for. As participants of all races are exposed to the same stereotypical images in the media, it is expected that the participants’ race will not affect their ratings; however, their level of implicit stereotype association, regardless of their race, is expected be the most significant factor in this exploration.
- Education - Seattle