July 23, 2024

New study reveals Black children 36 percent more likely to be seen as angry

Third grade students Tyler Smalls (L) and Sekou Cisse raise their hands in reading comprehension class at Harlem Success Academy. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

The ongoing case of “Grace,” detained for not completing her online schoolwork, has reignited a national conversation about how Black children are treated and punished in school. 

A 2018 study has previously shown that Black students in K-12 schools are more likely to be disciplined, suspended, and even referred to law enforcement much more than their counterparts. 

READ MORE: Michigan judge denies release of teen girl jailed for skipping online homework

A brand new study has found that the bias of white teachers begins before they even enter the classroom. The details are recapped on The Conversation, an education blog.

The research, published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, found that the teachers were 36% more likely to mistakenly believe that a Black child is making an angry face, than a white child. Because of this, these teachers believe that the Black child is “angry.”

American Heart Association Teaching Gardens Planting In Harlem
A general view of the atmosphere as KIPP Infinity Charter School students in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for AHA)

The methodology of the study used 178 college students who are prospective teachers. The group was shown videos of a group of 72 Black and white child actors who were instructed to make specific facial movements. The children were asked to show certain expressions on their faces like, but not limited to, being surprised or being angry. The teachers-in-training were then shown the videos and asked to identify the emotions they saw. 

The results proved to be a microcosm of classrooms with students of color across the nation.

The Conversation said that the research is urgently needed because poor relationships between students and their teachers can have long-term effects that last into adulthood. 

“Picture a student who feels a strong personal connection to her teacher, talks with her teacher frequently, and receives more constructive guidance and praise rather than just criticism from her teacher,” Sara Rimm-Kaufman, Ph.D., and Lia Sandilos, Ph.D., University of Virginia wrote in a joint reflection published by the American Psychological Association, “The student is likely to trust her teacher more, show more engagement in learning, behave better in class, and achieve at higher levels academically.” 

READ MORE: Teachers of color have more impact on students than white teachers

The Conversation noted that the perception that Black children are angrier than white, not only threatens their education but can be a threat to their lives.

The article referenced an altercation that made national news. Two Black 6-year-olds were handcuffed and arrested at an Orlando school after a series of behavioral outbursts.  Surely, the prejudice that white teachers unconsciously had played a role in how this situation was resolved.

The hope is that by identifying this interpretation of their students, these teachers can take the extra step to check their own bias.

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