Black students at LBUSD are suspended 5 times more than white students
Implicit biases often go unnoticed by those who perpetuate them.
Teachers are encouraged to self-recognize biases, self-reflect and self-commitment to change.
Implicit bias is the mental process in which negative generalizations and attitudes about others are made unintentionally and unconsciously. Because of its effects in our everyday lives, it is important to address implicit bias in schools.
I tested this out by conducting a social experiment, at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, in which a picture of a Latinx male was shown to other students.
“I think that he’s in BEACH because he doesn’t look like a typical PACE student. He looks like more of an average student,” one student responded.
PACE is a pathway at Poly that is known for its rigorous courses. BEACH has gained the opposite reputation.
Although BEACH hones in on math and science and advocates STEM careers, BEACH students often are not given the top priority to take classes in this field.
Because of stereotypes toward students and disparities among the pathways, biases often go unnoticed by those who perpetuate them.
To show teachers and school staff how to mitigate their biases, the Long Beach Unified School District partnered with Californians for Justice, an organization that fights to improve the lives of marginalized students, to host trainings about this very issue.
African Americans (13% of the district) make up about 35% of suspensions, as white students (12% of the district) make up to about 7% of suspensions.
This huge gap is concerning and is one of the reasons why over 80 school teachers, staff, and administrators from elementary, middle, and high schools participated in these trainings.
As stated by the City of Long Beach, California Early Childhood Education Strategic Plan for 2018-2023, “nationally, African American children are suspended and expelled from schools, even preschools, at a rate that is 48% higher than their peers” and “ is often because of an educator’s implicit bias, at all levels, against African American males.”
CFJ’s trainings can include different sessions, of which my personal favorite is one that begins with powerful student poems.
Gracie, a CFJ youth organizer, exclaimed that “teachers deserve better training just as I deserve more support.”
For CFJ, this support means smaller classroom sizes to build better relationships with teachers, allowing students to partake in making decisions regarding schools, and addressing mental health and trauma to build trust among students and teachers.
By including such personal stories and feelings from students, CFJ was able to further demonstrate the importance of their trainings.
During a training, CFJ concluded by providing what they call “Individual Intervention.” This includes three self-regulating tips:
- Self-recognition: to acknowledge the implicit bias that we all have.
- Self-reflection: to consider, examine, and reflect on the implicit bias we all carry.
- Self-commitment: to implement something that may help us reach beyond implicit bias.
To find out to what extent this implicit bias training was helpful, I reached out to Mara DenBosch-Verdicchio, an English teacher at Millikan High School.
“It is always important to be the best teachers we can be for all our students,” said DenBosch-Verdicchio. She believes that the training’s honest conversations about implicit bias will help improve relationships with students.
“Teachers are responsible for helping to create a safe space where all students feel welcome in the classroom… We as teachers need to be aware of any biases we might have regarding a student’s race, gender, ethnicity, [and] socioeconomic background.”