In a recent article, the Youngstown school superintendent and city officials have responded to high school suspension rates with unwanted results. The strategies put in place have only redirected the student behavior. The Youngstown school superintendent will have to transform the gap between student perceptions and teacher intentions to minimize the disobedience and disruptive student behavior.

According to the article, the school superintendent and city school officials have tried counseling, grade reconfiguration and training, but high discipline and suspension rates continue, exceeding those of the state and comparison districts.

Youngstown schools’ discipline categories “continue to trend upward, resulting in higher 2013-14 rates than comparison school districts,” a January report from the Ohio Department of Education said.

“We have more in-school suspension and we try to counsel kids,” Superintendent Connie Hathorn said.

The district has employed D&E Counseling, used Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations and provided teacher training in attempts to address the problem.

Even peer mediation, which was used by the district a number of years ago and stopped when grant funding expired, didn’t improve suspension percentages, the deputy superintendent said.

The school superintendent can minimize disobedient and disruptive behavior by transforming the gap between student perceptions and teacher intentions.

Student Perceptions

The student’s perceptions began with marginalizing their parent and ancestors into society by slavery, conquest, and colonization. Due to this process, students believe school is detrimental to their identity. Indians, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Blacks share the same historical experience of having been brought into the United States society against their will and then relegated to inferior status. Blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans are caste-like immigrants who were involuntarily incorporated into the United States. Involuntary minorities such as Blacks are not willing to perform well in school due to difficulty with crossing cultural lines which is a major reason that previous attempts at education reform continue with little or no success. Since slavery, Blacks have learned that the way to get ahead is not through merit and talent but through white assistance. Americans of color have had to adapt to an American society that does not value their ethnicity, history, heritage, or language.

Black parents prepare their children to live in a dual cultural world that involves helping them to develop skills for adult roles such as wage earners and parenthood in addition to negotiating a dominant society that has different cultural values and judges’ people by their skin color or ethnic background. Blacks who live in a society that dislikes them for the color of their skin ensure they do not become victims by approaching people with caution, wariness, and a sense of distrust.

Student perceptions and feelings regarding teachers and themselves influence student achievement. Students do better in school when they believe getting a good education will increase their chances for success. Students who perceive that teachers have favorable feelings toward them have higher achievement levels when teachers have positive views toward them. Children who have positive feelings regarding teachers have higher achievement levels.

Black and Latino urban high school students believe their underachievement results when they perceive racism and discrimination toward them. Black students believe school is a hostile place and teachers are agents of oppression. White teachers symbolize the racism Black parents and Black students have endured throughout their entire lives.

The historical problems for people of color create a cultural mismatch between students and the school which has resulted in academic failure for many students. The attempt to Americanize students involves attempting to culturally fix children who are supposedly flawed by altering their values and language.

Student academic achievement decreases when the difference between the student’s culture and the school culture increases and the classroom environment does not value the student’s home culture. When an educational cultural match is not possible, there must be at least respect and value of the culture that children bring with them. Many school superintendents and school officials have made grievous errors by blaming parents for the problems in school. When in fact, it is the parents who are products of the education system too.

The only way that a school superintendent can transform the gap between student perceptions and teacher intentions is to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships).

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships


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“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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