After thirteen years as a math teacher, and several years as a central office administrative math and curriculum specialist, I had the opportunity to impact children as an assistant principal. Two of my primary responsibilities were instruction and discipline. After several months as an assistant principal, I realized that the amount of the discipline that I processed was unproductive for the students and the school.
I conducted a thorough quantitative analysis and found that Black students were overrepresented in disciplinary infractions. Black students accounted for 45% of the processed disciplinary infractions while accounting for 33% of the student population. Hispanics, Whites, and Asians students accounted for 53%, 1%, and 1% of the processed disciplinary infractions, respectively.
The administrator demographics were White (67%) and Black (33%). Instructional staff demographics were White (95%), Black (3%), and Hispanic (2%). Most students at SSHS were minorities. Student demographics were Hispanic (60%), Black (33%), White (4%), and Asian Pacific Islander (3%). Ninety-nine percent of the students qualified for reduced or free lunch.
I was not totally convinced that there was a racial problem, so I conducted a cultural analysis. I found discrepancies such as administrator beliefs and teacher overemphasis of discipline. For example, several administrators believed that the parents of the students sent their children to the school to receive discipline. Others teachers believed that students needed to receive double discipline for the same infraction.
Still not totally convinced, I conducted a qualitative analysis. I interviewed several teachers and students. After evaluating the transcripts and considering all of the collected data, I understood that this was a racial challenge and forged forward to help the students and the organization.
After writing my dissertation, Promoting Positive Racial Teacher-Student Classroom Relationships and leaving the organization. I found out that the school received several awards after I completed the transition. In 2012, the United States Department of Education honored them with the Title 1 distinguished School of Excellence. In 2012 and 2013 US News and World Report honored them as a Bronze Medal School. In 2013, they were honored as a New Jersey School of Character – one of three high schools in the state to receive this honor.
I believe that it is a disservice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, the education community, businesses, the country, and the world to continue to keep the process a secret. With that in mind, we provide professional services to all of our clients that will reduce racism in school classrooms and other professional environments.