Previous research from the U.S. Department of Education has shown that nationwide Black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from public schools. In many states, the racial gap in school suspensions and expulsions is even larger.
A new study authored by researchers at the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri and presented recently at the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, finds that Black students at public schools with a higher percentage of Black teachers have the impression that discipline is more fair than at schools with a low number of Black faculty. White students also have the impression that discipline is more fair at schools with a higher number of Black faculty.
Don Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the department of political science at the University of Kansas and a co-author of the study, says that “increasing the proportion of minority teachers in a school enhances all students’ perceptions of school discipline fairness. Our findings provide empirical support for the arguments of some political theorists that the legitimacy of public institutions is enhanced when those institutions are staffed by people who look like the population more generally.”
Professor Haider-Markel adds that “schools teach young people about democracy and being a citizen directly, but schools, through their treatment of students, also teach students how the government views them as citizens. So students who do not perceive fair treatment might take away the message that the government will not be fair or treat everyone equally.”