Preschool Teachers May Be Racially Biased Against Students, a New Study Found

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A new study found racial bias in preschool teachers.Photo: kali9/Getty Images

Going off to preschool is a big moment in a child’s life, but a new study found that these children may be exposed to racial bias in their preschool classes — through their teachers.

Researchers from the Yale University Child Study Center revealed that teachers are more likely to expect young black children, particularly boys, to misbehave, according to the Washington Post. As part of the study, more than 130 preschool teachers watched video clips of students and were asked to point out signs of “challenging behavior.”

However, unbeknownst to the teachers, the children in the clips were actually actors and did not exhibit any difficult behaviors. Equipment that tracked the teachers’ gaze found that they spent more time looking at black children — especially black boys — than white children. Lead study author Dr. Walter S. Gilliam told the Washington Post that the findings show that teachers expect problems from black children — and that racial biases are deeply rooted.

“Implicit biases do not begin with black men and police. They begin with black preschoolers and their teachers, if not earlier,” Gilliam said. “Implicit bias is like the wind: You can’t see it, but you can sure see its effects.”

The study also had teachers decide whether certain children’s behavior warranted suspension. Some teachers were told that the child had a stereotypical black name, such as DeShawn or LaToya, while others were told the child was named Emily or Jake, stereotypical white names. White teachers were found to be more lenient on the children they assumed were black. The researchers said this is likely because white teachers expect black children to misbehave, so they didn’t find their behavior to be so out of line.

The researchers recommend that teachers undergo training to confront their racial bias, which many probably don’t realize they have.