Date

2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Educational Leadership

First Adviser

Beachum, Floyd D.

Other advisers/committee members

Sperandio, Jill; Fu, Qiong; Smith-Evans Haynes, Leticia

Abstract

School discipline attempts to keep students safe, but often disservices students most in need of education (Children’s Defense Fund, 1975; Perry & Morris, 2014; Skiba & Rausch, 2004). Exclusionary discipline affects students of Color disparately due to overrepresentation in suspensions and expulsions (Losen & Skiba, 2010). The discipline gap between White students and students of Color continues to grow—particularly for Black students (Losen, et al, 2015). Investigations of exclusionary discipline use suggested school-level factors including administrators’ disciplinary preferences explained more of this phenomenon than other factors and may work through implicit biases (Skiba, et al, 2014). Implicit biases (attitudes or stereotypes held subconsciously and unintentionally acted upon) exist for all kinds of preferences but are most concerning for racial stereotypes with respect to school discipline gaps (Straats, Capatosto, Wright, & Jackson, 2016). If administrators hold racial implicit biases, one might expect disparate rates of discipline severity for less favorable groups. In order to determine whether and to what degree administrators’ racial implicit biases explained discrepant discipline, student discipline data and the Implicit Associations Test were examined. Administrators’ implicit bias scores were related to the student race to discipline severity relationship and local discipline gaps with separation by decision types (subjective or objective). For overall and subjective decisions, implicit bias accounted for differences in the student race to discipline severity relationship, but only subjective findings remained after demographic and behavioral controls. Students of Color experience more severe discipline as a function of administrator implicit bias in subjective discipline decisions. This is the first study to the author’s knowledge to demonstrate administrator-level impact of implicit bias on racial discipline discrepancies.

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