In a recent article, a South Carolina school security officer has allegedly physically abused a student in the classroom which has prompted a national debate regarding violence in schools. Black student discipline has become the focal point of much legislation for schools. The efforts to curb violence in schools are marginal because of school officials’ refusal to consider the perceptions of Black students.

What are the historical aspects of Black student perceptions that can contribute to violence in schools?

When incorporating students into a marginalized society by slavery, conquest, and colonization, students believe school is detrimental to their identity which is a primary source for violence in schools. Indians, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Blacks share the same experience being brought into the United States society against their will and then relegated to subordinate status.

Blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans are immigrants who were involuntarily incorporated into the United States. Involuntary minorities such as Blacks are not willing to perform well in school due to difficulty with crossing cultural lines. The primary reason why previous attempts at educational reform have been unsuccessful is that the relationships between teachers and students and between schools and communities have remained unchanged for decades.

Blacks and the Black community have learned that since slavery that the way to get ahead within a limited universe available to is not through merit and talent but through White patronage. Americans of color adapt to a society that does not value their ethnicity, history, heritage, or language by establishing societal survival strategies.

How do some Black parents prepare Black children to avoid violence in schools which is perpetrated in some cases by school officials?

Black parents prepare their children to live in a dual cultural world that involves helping them to develop skills for adult roles such as wage earners, parenthood, and encounters that can result in violence in schools in addition to negotiating a dominant society that has different cultural values and judges people by their skin color or ethnic background. Blacks who live in an urban society and a society that dislikes them for the color of their skin ensure they do not become victims by approaching White people with caution, wariness, and a sense of distrust.

What beliefs do Black students have that can contribute to violence in schools?

Black high school students believe their underachievement results when they perceive racism and discrimination toward them and become limited by American society. Students do better in school when they believe getting a good education will increase their chances for success. Students who perceive that teachers have favorable feelings toward them have higher achievement levels when teachers have positive views toward them. Children who have positive feelings regarding teachers have higher achievement levels.

How can teachers help to eliminate violence in schools?

Positive relationships at schools and in the classroom are in many ways the prerequisites for effective learning and behavior. Positive relationships produce positive feelings. Teachers who have positive feelings toward their students are more likely to have students reciprocate those positive feelings. Black students prefer warm and supportive teachers and believe that teachers create an optimum learning environment when they care about and bond with their students.

Positive teacher-student relationships include the absence of negative interactions. Negative criticism, embarrassment, and humiliation are the most frequent acts that damage teacher-student relationships. The barriers to developing positive relationships with students also include:

  • Assuming how a student responds, thinks, and feels
  • Not allowing students to discover their own explanations and solutions
  • Bossing or telling a student what needs to be done and how it should be done
  • Criticizing students by pointing out what the students did not do right
  • Pointing out to students that they should behave, think, and feel as adults

Effective teaching techniques may lose some of their impact when positive teacher-student relationships are lacking.

Developing positive relationships with students provides benefits for schools, teachers, and students. Having positive and caring relationships in schools increases resilience and protects children from academic failure, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and destructive behavior and school violence.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. www.positiveracialrelationships.com PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012

 

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

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