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Recent statistics from the US Department of Education show that African American students — from kindergarten through high school — are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white students.  

In 2013-14, nearly seven-thousand children in public pre-school received one or more out-of-school suspensions.  This is a population that is mainly comprised of low income children of color.  A 2015 article by the Atlantic showed that Black children accounted for 18 percent of preschool enrollment but almost half (48 percent) of the children suspended more than once.  In contrast, white children were 43 percent of preschoolers, but only 26 percent were subjected to repeated suspensions. So what are we assuming about the behavior of a preschooler, or specifically an African American preschooler, that would justify his or her suspension?  

What role does implicit bias play in the classroom and school context that contribute to judgements and expectations?  

What are the judgements and expectations that are placed on a student who is repeatedly pushed out of the classroom? What are the judgments and expectations that are placed on their families, their communities, and their future? And, for children who are repeatedly suspended from school, what are their out-of-school options for engagement and how might the opportunities vary for a preschooler, an elementary schooler, a middle schooler or a high schooler? What message are we sending to children when we say you’re e not worthy of being in school?

Research indicates that a student who is suspended once is twice as likely to drop out of school compared to those who are not.  Furthermore a school age child who does not attend school is likely to engage in delinquent activity that will ultimately result in their arrest and detainment. Unfortunately, this pattern affects more African American males than any other population in the country.  More black males between the ages of 18-24 are in prison than in college.  And today, there are more African American adults under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850.  

Identifying this as a GRAVE civil rights concern would be an understatement.   

The purpose of The Perception Project is to gain an understanding of:

  1. Implicit bias among school teachers and;

  2. The role that implicit bias plays in perceptions about children, including likelihood of suspension.  

Though it can’t be assumed that teachers are the main contributors to the pipeline, teachers do play an important role in advocating for the children in their classrooms, hence circumventing the pipeline.

Implicit bias is generally measured by using the Implicit Association Task (IAT.)  The IAT method detects the strength of a person's automatic association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory.  This is done through showing pictures of individuals along with positively and negatively based words to research participants.