In a recent article, an Indiana college professor provided local Pittsburg educators and residents with the alleged primary reasons that racism continues to contribute to school discipline. According to John Roberts, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Educators can benefit from an evaluation of the differences in verbal and nonverbal behavior that provides the platform for developing trust which ultimately has an impact on the perceived fairness related to school discipline.

According to the article, Expert: Race still a factor in school discipline, over 100 local students, teachers, administrators, and advocates gathered to hear Russell Skiba, a professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at Indiana University Bloomington in Bloomington, Indiana to lecture about the reasons that racism continues to plague the American educational system.

According to Mr. Skiba, “We’ve been disabused of the notion that somehow we’d gotten past the issue of race in America and that we could be race-neutral in dealing with these issues in America”. He went on to say that “the history of race relations within the U.S. includes centuries of slavery and landmark cases that have a lasting psychological effect and help create hidden racism. All of this hangover of history sticks with us. It’s what we believed and have been taught for centuries and we can’t stop believing it overnight.”

Linda Lane, the Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent, reported that the historical context was the “biggest take-away” from the lecture. Lane believes that “It’s all a matter of having those conversations about race and not pretending that race doesn’t matter. We all know color blindness doesn’t work, and we as educators need to recognize our own implicit biases so we can address them.”

What is the beginning factor that leads to enforcing school discipline on the platform of racism?

Education is a communication process that is not limited to transmitting knowledge but also involves interpersonal communication behaviors and nonverbal behaviors that are the major aspects of interpersonal relationships, which are critical in all learning situations. The teaching-learning process is essentially a communication event that includes verbal and nonverbal communication. Teachers and students are verbal and nonverbal message senders and receivers. Developing respectful relationships with students requires considerable knowledge of their verbal and nonverbal communication styles.

Schools and Black student conflict develop from expectation differences related to communication styles. The general public fails to accept that Blacks have different communication norms and conventions by assuming that Blacks communicate using standards set by socially dominant Whites. Whites’ dispassionate and detached communication mode creates distrust among Blacks due to its similarity to Blacks who front which occurs when Blacks perceive there is a communication risk factor and chooses to remain silent in Black-White communication encounters. Most Black educational failure arises from the teachers’ inability to understand how the students communicate.

How should Pittsburg Schools plan to overcome racism that can lead to unnecessary school discipline?

The Pittsburg superintendent plans a follow-up “action plan meeting” to the lecture which was held in the Woodland Hills High School library. An action plan is a document that lists what steps must be taken in order to achieve a specific goal. The purpose of an action plan is to clarify what resources are required to reach the goal, formulate a timeline for when specific tasks need to be completed and determine what resources are required.

There are several problems with an action plan development if the correct steps are not followed. The first problem is that without the appropriate process the action plan is paramount to shoving a plan down the throat of those responsible for implementation. The second problem arises when teachers are provided an opportunity to exhibit characteristics associated with a dysfunctional organization. This will eventually thwart any efforts to eliminate school discipline associated with racism.

The Pittsburg superintendent should utilize the following steps to ensure the best process for eliminating school discipline that is associated with racism.

  1. Select the correct connectors in the school district and local community advocates (Limit group to 25 to 30 members)
  2. Retrieve the necessary information to ensure success for the transition
  3. Develop a shared vision (Normally a three session process)
  4. Develop the appropriate goals, objectives, timelines, and costs (Normally a four session process)

It will take approximately 11 sessions to ensure the most effective process and plan of action to eliminate school discipline associated with racism.

Related Articles

Race and Discipline in the South Carolina Schools

School discipline isn’t delivered evenly to black and white students. What can educators do?

Suspension falling out of favor as school discipline

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 and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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