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Report: Aspiring Teachers More Likely To View Behavior Of Black Boys As Hostile

Cedar Fork Elementary in Wake County would have to add three more kindergarten classrooms under the class-size change scheduled to go into effect in the fall.
Jess Clark

Aspiring teachers are more likely to mistake emotions for anger in the face of a black person than a white person, according to a new study published in the journal "Contemporary Education." It also found that participants were more likely to view the behavior of black boys as hostile.The study’s lead author, N.C. State University Psychology Professor Amy Halberstadt, said most Americans carry an implicit, unconscious racial bias, which can have unintended impact on students of color.

“If we are pre-judging people as being angry, we may not want to engage with them,” Halberstadt said. “Certainly in the schools, that can be a problem because teachers can perceive hostility or anger in children where it doesn't exist, and they can experience more disciplinary results, such as suspensions and expulsions.”

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that black students are suspended and expelled more frequently than their white peers.

Halberstadt said those who hope to become teachers should be aware of their unconscious racial bias and think twice before reacting.

“‘Maybe I need to check in. Is this person or is this child having this emotion? Should I check to make sure that I'm fully understanding what this person is feeling?' And I think that would help conversations, it would help communication. It would help us connect with one another so much more successfully.”

Most of the 40 prospective teachers in Halberstadt's sample were white, as are most people training to become teachers in North Carolina. Halberstadt said she has received more funding to expand her research.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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