A new academic study suggests that students view discipline as fairer when schools employ more teachers from minorities according to a new study from two US academics.
University of Kansas political science professor Don Haider-Markel co-authored the study with University of Missouri professors Lael Keiser and Rajeev Darolia.
In the paper, titled "Race, Gender and Symbolic Representation in American Schools" they report that black students in schools with more of black teachers have more positive attitudes and also view discipline in the school as being fairer. White students in schools with more minority-background teachers also perceived discipline to be fairer.
With black students in the US three times more likely to be suspended or expelled according to US government data and the academics concluded that those students are more likely to view other government institutions and law enforcement agencies as not treating all citizens equally.
Haider-Markel says that schools can make a big difference in how students from ethnic minorities view their treatment from officials overall: "Schools teach young people about democracy and being a citizen directly, but schools, through their treatment of students, also teach students how the government views them as citizens," Haider-Markel said. "So students who do not perceive fair treatment might take away the message that the government will not be fair or treat everyone equally."
He notes that as this latest study supports previous research that schools that hire teachers more in line with the ethnic mix of the student body may benefit. As increasing the level of staff from an ethnic minority background would seem to also have a positive effect on white students the authors of the paper highlight that the policy would not adversely affect that student group.