What is implicit bias?
What is implicit bias?
Implicit bias isn’t something that we can see and tap into. Rather, implicit bias is ingrained, unconscious attitudes or stereotypes about people that impact our behavior towards them.
What does this matter?
Because our implicit biases often predict how we’ll behave more accurately than our conscious values.
Implicit biases lead to institutional racism that harms students in the classroom.
These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.
Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.
The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.
These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages. In addition to early life experiences, the media and news programming are often-cited origins of implicit associations.
Implicit bias harms students of color and American Indian students in Minnesota at an alarming rate.
Implicit bias leads to inequitable punishments and exclusionary practices for students of color. A 2012 investigation found that “17 percent, or one out of every six black schoolchildren enrolled in K–12, were suspended at least once,” compared with “one in 20 (5 percent) for whites.”
Black girls ages 5 to 14 have been viewed by adults as “less innocent” than white girls of the same age, which may be a factor in the disparity in suspension rates, according to a 2017 report by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.
Nationally, black students are suspended three times as often as their white peers. In Minnesota, it’s eight times as often.
What’s more, key data from the MnEEP report Excluded: How Race Plays a Role in Exclusionary Practices in Special Education in Minnesota shows how implicit bias and racialized perceptions of ability and disability lead to special education identification, placement into restrictive educational settings, and exclusionary discipline practices that negatively impact educational outcomes for students of color and American Indian students.
- American Indian students in Minnesota are more than 4x more likely than White peers to be identified with a disability.
- Black students are more than 6x more likely than White peers to be placed in restrictive special education.
- Black students represent 12 percent of students with disabilities, but constitute 33 percent of physical restraint use in restrictive settings.
These exclusionary practices are a human rights violation that impact student outcomes today, and in the future. Studies show that students who experience restrictive educational settings or exclusionary discipline practices that remove them from the classroom are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.
Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test
Take a short test to learn about your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics
Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition —thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.
White privilege and racialized conceptions of ability continue to allow parents and educators to use certain special education categories as a tool for continued racial segregation.
Students who are of color and American Indian in Minnesota continue to be overrepresented in three main areas: Special education identification; Placement into particular restrictive educational settings and; Discipline including incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions including suspensions and expulsions.
African American and American Indian students are disproportionately represented in restrictive placement settings.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) 2016 Restrictive Procedures Report, African American students accounted for approximately 12% of the special education student population, and are overrepresented in both the physical holding and seclusion data. Restrictive procedures includes both physical holds and seclusion.
What’s more, students who have a disability diagnosis for Emotional Behavioral Disorder will account for more than half of all students experiencing the use of restrictive procedures.
This has significant impact on students of color and American Indian students who continue to be diagnosed with emotional behavioral disorders at high rates.
Read MnEEP’s full report here.
Key talking points
Being an advocate means speaking up.
It means sharing facts and stories, and standing up about hard truths. Learning more about this issue yourself, and sharing key information, is essential for creating real change.
Here are some important stories for sharing and learning about building education justice for all students.
The school-to-prison pipeline
From Vox: The school-to-prison pipeline explained.
*View video here.
From Tolerance.org: Policies and practices that favor incarceration over education.
What is critical race theory? And why is it so essential?
From ThoughtCo.: A challenge to the rhetoric of “color-blindness”
How exclusionary practices impact students of color and American Indian students
From Education Dive: Exclusionary discipline remove students from school physically and emotionally.
From MnEEP: How race plays a role in exclusionary special education practices in Minnesota
Join us in working to support education justice in Minnesota schools.
Demand Culturally Responsive Teaching and Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (CRPBIS).
CRPBIS school teams establish clearly defined outcomes that relate to students’ academic and social behavior, systems that support staff efforts, practices that support student success, and data to guide decision-making.
Learn more about Minnesota’s plans and if your school and district supports CRBIS.
Demand alternatives to suspensions.
Developing alternatives to suspension and implementing evidence-based interventions can help reduce out-of-school suspensions as a response to disciplinary incidents and keep students in school where they can learn.
Ask how your school or district supports suspension alternatives.
Email your school superintendent.
Contact members of your school district to demand they support essential practices for ending discipline disparities in Minnesota schools.
View form letter.
Email your legislator.
Contact your legislator to tell them to ACT NOW to support PESLB training and policies to end discipline disparities in Minnesota schools.
View form letter.
Sign up for our School Climate Network.
We are coordinating a team of educators and advocates to develop solutions and evidence-based practice for ending disparities in Minnesota schools, including implicit bias training in Critical Race Theory for educators; focusing on emotional learning and counselors instead police presence; positive behavioral interventions and supports; and advocating for and demanding systems change to end ongoing racist practices and exclusionary policies that harm students.