Black males in grades 9–12 : discipline problem or a problem with disciplinary practices? A phenomenological study uncovering perceptions and experiences.
Disproportionate disciplinary practices involving Black male students are pervasive in schools across the United States; further, Black male students trail behind other subgroups of students academically. Data from the U.S. Department of Education show that Black students make up almost 25% of the student population in the Houston Independent School District (HISD, the seventh-largest school district in the country), and are seven times more likely to experience suspension as a disciplinary consequence compared to White students. This trend is widespread and destructive. In addition, Black males make up the largest population of prisoners in the United States, perhaps because Black males are more likely to drop out of school and resort to criminal activity (Alexander, 2010). Therefore, educators must cultivate techniques and interventions to mitigate disparities in disciplinary practices. In addition, the disparity in disciplinary practices prompted several Houston area school districts, including Houston Independent School District, Pearland Independent School District, and Fort Bend Independent School District, to prohibit suspending students before third grade (Conner, 2021). Reducing suspension rates is crucial in promoting fair and equal access to education. Moreover, school administrators must amicably handle disciplinary actions for minor offenses without involving the justice system. Equally important, educators must cultivate relationships with students and become culturally competent to understand student needs and adjust delivery of the curriculum accordingly to promote engagement and learning and decrease disciplinary infractions. This current phenomenological study uncovers and highlights the lived experiences and perceptions of Black males and the prevailing stereotypes of the African American community concerning discipline practices and techniques in schools. The researcher chose Black males in ninth to twelfth grades from high schools in the Houston, Texas, metropolitan area as participants. Further, this phenomenological study informs educators, parents, students, and stakeholders of the challenges Black male students face while matriculating in school to view and critique widely accepted beliefs that perpetuate implicit biases and stereotypes prevalent in American schools through the lens of Critical Race Theory and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. The findings provide awareness regarding the challenges Black male students face in the 21st century, which have been perpetuated through the decades.