The perception of the school to prison pipeline has plagued the image of schools and school officials for many decades. Many school officials have worked diligently to eliminate this negative perception with minimal success. Even with an increase of minority teaching staff, schools continue to struggle with eliminating the perceptions associated with the school to prison pipeline.

The major reason for the ineffectiveness of minority teachers is that they must follow and enforce the same rules that White teachers do. For example, one primary school rule that all teachers must respond to is a recommendation for discipline in the event of a classroom disruption. A classroom disruption is generally regarded as behavior a reasonable person would view as being likely to substantially or repeatedly interfere with the conduct of a class. Some examples of classroom disruptions that are culturally insensitive to the Black and Hispanic student culture include:

  1. Loud and distracting noises
  2. Talking with others
  3. Interrupting the instructor

Communication expectations are primary factors that contribute to the school to prison pipeline. School officials fail 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. This failure results in the school to prison pipeline due to the  educator’s inability to understand how the Black students communicate.

What are some of the Black and Hispanic student communication tendencies that result in the school to prison pipeline?

Black students communicate differently than their teachers. For example, Blacks not only debate the idea; they also debate the person while Whites debate the idea rather than the person debating the idea. Black students move the conversation from a global perspective to a personal perspective. In this instance, the teacher is likely to become insulted resulting in a disciplinary infraction recommendation for the student. The reason for this difference in communication expectation is a result of a lack of trust for the teacher. Blacks often probe beyond a given statement to find out where a person is “coming from,” to clarify the meaning and value of a particular behavior or attitude.

Also, Black students often interrupt the class due to the acceptance of spontaneity in the Black culture. Black students contrast White middle-class communication when they speak over others’ voices and repeat the communication until they are responded to or until they have someone’s attention. Spontaneity in conversation is an acceptable form of communication in the Black community. Although others perceive interrupting another speaker in conversation as rude. Speaker and audience are often interchangeable as evidenced by Black students often calling out or responding to the speaker.

Black communities accept the approach that their children use by interrupting others or speaking out of turn, which is an unacceptable school practice, and teachers view this behavior as disruptive and inappropriate. Anglo Americans place a high value on allowing one person at a time to speak to indicate respect for an individual. This opposition in communication expectations is a hidden factor that not only contributes to the school to poison pipeline but is also left out of the conversation when school administrators are developing and recommending student codes of conduct.   

Another Black student communication tendency that can result in contributing to the school to prison pipeline is a student evaluation of their teacher. Black students use several verbal techniques to discover a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses in order to evaluate a teacher’s racial attitudes and locate teachers’ breaking points to help the students empower themselves in the situation between them and the teacher.

Hispanic students have communication tendencies that can contribute to the school to prison pipeline. Puerto Ricans make decisions jointly where one person speaks, and others join in and respond until the group makes a decision. Anglo Americans value one person speaking at a time to indicate respect for the individual.  

While this list of communication complexities is not exhaustive, it points to that fact that without the appropriate response to Black and Hispanic student communication tendencies, the school to prison pipeline will continue to accelerate.

Related Articles

Multiple support strategies necessary to close school-to-prison pipeline

Ending the school to prison pipeline, one student at a time

School of Thought: School-to-prison pipeline starts early; so must its prevention


All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

(856) 566-3267


Author of:

  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
  • The Raccelerate Formula App
  • Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
  • The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management

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“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
 ~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools

“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“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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