Implicit Racial Bias and School Discipline Disparities


Implicit Racial Bias and School Discipline Disparities


This report from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity (Ohio State University) seeks to uplift implicit bias as a possible contributing factor to the racialized discipline disparities seen in K-12 education. The key findings of the report include a discussion of the subjective components of school discipline, the cultural mismatch between teachers and students and the pervasive societal implicit associations surrounding Blackness and how each of those factors can contribute to discipline disparities. In addition, the report discusses the recent emergence of a “school-to-prison pipeline” in which student disciplinary cases – even for minor, nonviolent offenses – are increasingly being handled by the criminal (juvenile) justice system and outlines ways to divert students from that pipeline by addressing implicit racial bias through debiasing strategies. The conclusion of the report is that students of color often bear the brunt of pervasive implicit racial biases and decisions related to school discipline and the ramifications of these disparities, such as the school-to prison pipeline, can have considerable negative consequences that affect students’ overall life trajectories. The report encourages education professionals to consider the ways in which unconscious biases may be affecting discipline decisions in their own districts and schools through a deeper understanding of the influence of implicit biases.


Cheryl Staats



May 2014


United States

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Cheryl Staats, “Implicit Racial Bias and School Discipline Disparities,” Anti-Racism Digital Library, accessed May 6, 2021,