From the Field

Racial Disparities in Elementary School Discipline Practices

The effects of racial disparities in school disciplinary practices has been an increasingly prominent issue in education policy circles. In a new EdWorking Paper, University of Virginia researchers Amanda P. Williford, Pilar Alamos, Jessica E. Whittaker, and Maria R. Accavitti report that teachers are more likely to use exclusionary disciplinary practices short of suspension on Black kindergartners than White students due to preconceived assumptions about differences in students’ social skills.

In an effort to examine the role of race in educators’ disciplinary decisions, the researchers used a large sample of kindergarten teachers who reported on their use of five exclusionary strategies, including isolated seating, removal from an activity, and loss of recess. When the results were broken down by race and ethnicity, they revealed that teachers reported using the practices more frequently on Black than White students.

These findings highlight the need to rethink disciplinary actions in the early years as schools work to advance equity for young children and improve their interactions with teachers and administrators.

-By Robert Nishimwe