Implicit bias, discipline, and academic disparities : a phenomenological study to understand White teachers’ perceptions of Black students.


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A disproportionately large number of Black students are assigned exclusionary discipline measures in today’s schools that perpetuate systemic racism. Advancement demands a reckoning with not only the overt racism that still exists in many non-Black places but also the damage created through implicit racial bias. There is an urgent need in K–12 school districts to address racism and implicit bias that affects the high discipline numbers among Black students, contributing to academic disparities. Implicit biases of White teachers negatively affect the discipline of Black students even when their White counterparts commit the same infractions. White teachers’ implicit bias leads to differences in educational opportunities for the nation’s students. White teachers must recognize that they hold a higher responsibility to correct the wrong that has been ongoing over centuries. This phenomenological study explored White teachers’ perceptions of implicit bias as it relates to disciplinary and academic disparities of Black students in a northern Virginia school. Insight into this collective experience is very important because the marginalized group impacted by the phenomenon is at risk of not reaching their full potential. This study utilized an implicit bias framework to glean the perceptions of teachers’ implicit cognition, attitudes, or stereotypical biases. The study consisted of 11 completed questionnaires, which collected the experiences of White teachers in a northern Virginia public school district. Through this study, I found that White participating teachers believed there were inequitable policies and practices in the school system. While the themes of inequitable policies and practices and the negative stereotypes and disparate treatment fell within the components of cognitive, attitudinal, and stereotypical bias, respectively, action steps taken encompassed all three components of the implicit bias framework. The results indicated that many of the White teachers in this study perceived implicit bias as being common at their respective schools. Furthermore, the teachers cited several action steps they have taken to combat such biases.