Disproportionate discipline policies: African American student and teacher perspectives within the context of school-wide intervention efforts
Small, Candice Marion
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Discipline disproportionality is a complex problem plaguing public schools across the nation. Over the last twenty years, schools have implemented school-wide intervention models to address the overuse of exclusionary discipline. Despite this movement, discipline disproportionality still exists, and contributes to persistent educational inequities for African American students. Much of the research on this topic has been quantitative and focused on the experience of African American males. This study diverges from that tradition by using a participatory ethnographic method to gather qualitative data from the individuals who are most affected by disproportionate discipline practices, African American students and teachers. Data was collected via in-depth interviews with nine African American female high school students, seven long-term teachers who identified as White (four females and three males), and one African American female administrator. The study was conducted at a public high school experiencing discipline disproportionality within the context of a school-wide intervention model. The results show the complexity of how discipline disproportionality is maintained within a racialized school context. A primary finding was that teachers and students see the student-teacher relationship as a critical factor in the maintenance of unfair discipline practices. Teachers also cite systemic and structural factors as key contributors to discipline issues in the school. Further, teachers reported feeling a lack of support from administrators, which contributed to teachers’ low levels of self-efficacy in the face of discipline practices at their school. Finally, both the students and the teachers perceived the school-wide intervention model (PBIS) as not being fully realized in their school. Using critical race theory and social psychology perspectives, the author argues that the complexities of discipline disparities can be better understood by analyzing the transactional nature of student-teacher interactions within the context of the racial and power dynamics inherent in the institution of schools. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.
- Education - Seattle