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Study: Teachers have bias against black males

April 18, 2007 by  
Filed under News

‘Normalized racism’ evident to fellow students, researcher says

( Teachers treat African-American males differently than their white and Latino counterparts based on negative stereotypes and perceptions, according to a recent dissertation presented in Chicago.

“Sally can skip, but Jerome can’t stomp” is the title of Denise L. Collier’s dissertation, which explores teacher perceptions and beliefs of black male students, and how these may impact the teachers’ treatment of those students in the classroom setting.

Collier concluded that teachers subject African-American males to harsher punishments than other students for the same infractions. She came to this conclusion through interviews with teachers and students, observations in the classroom and data analysis.

Collier, a specialist in closing achievement gaps for the Los Angeles school district, studied fourth- and fifth-graders at an L.A. school. Her recent presentation in Chicago was part of the 88th annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

Collier found “normalized racism” in the classroom, meaning that teachers were often unaware of their own behavior.

“Teachers said racist things all the time and didn’t even know it,” she said, adding the statements came even when she, a black woman, interviewed teachers.

Black male students had negative responses to their teachers as a result of this mistreatment. In student interviews, Collier said, one boy said he hated his teacher, while another noted that she always picked on him.

“What they saw was just unfairness and part of everyday life they have to contend with,” Collier said, adding that other students noticed the unequal treatment as well.

Through teacher interviews, Collier found the negative perceptions of black males arose from media influences as well as personal beliefs. She cited articles, television programs and the belief that black parents do not care about their children as examples the teachers gave as to why they viewed African-American males the way they did.

Chicago Public Schools officials offer a six-hour class called Community and Culture to help teachers acquire skills in avoiding stereotypes and recognizing cultural differences, CPS spokeswoman Anitra Schulte said.

First-year teachers are required to participate in either the Community and Culture class or the Classroom Management class.


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