Analyzing the Role of Implicit Bias From a DisCrit Perspective: The Practical Application of Recommendations for the Pyramid Model Framework

Analyzing the Role of Implicit Bias From a DisCrit Perspective: The Practical Application of Recommendations for the Pyramid Model Framework

Kathy-Anne Jordan (Mercy College, USA), Susan Mariano Lapidus (Mercy College, USA) and Sudha Ramaswamy (Mercy College, USA)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7379-2.ch006
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Using a disability studies/critical race theory (Discrit) lens, the authors reviewed and analyzed specific literature within the pyramid model (PM) framework—a three-tier hierarchical framework for promoting social-emotional competence and reducing challenging behavior among young children—to understand the model's framing of implicit bias and the specific strategies noted in the literature that help teachers to recognize and counteract implicit bias and subsequently reduce disciplinary inequities among Black preschool children. Findings revealed that although the PM literature discussed, defined, and emphasized the importance of cultural responsivity, it did not engage critically with the construct of implicit bias (i.e., racism and ableism), specifically as it relates to the experiences of children most vulnerable to disciplinary sanction. This chapter ends with suggestions to help readers rethink the PM framework as a way to shift practice toward more equitable experiences for Black children in their earliest years of schooling.
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In 2007, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) issued a sobering report about the dangers of growing up Black and poor in America; they identified multiple and convergent family-, educational-, and community-based risks that form a cradle-to-prison pipeline, potentially leading children to marginalized lives, prison, or death. Single-parent or teen families, violent neighborhoods, lack of early education and enrichment, failing schools, grade retention, suspension, and expulsion represent some of the risk factors that disproportionately impact and disadvantage Black children throughout the life span. The report serves as a harsh reminder that “the most dangerous place for a child to … grow up in America is at the intersection of race and poverty” (CDF, 2007, p. 15). This danger is particularly evident in our schools—starting as early as preschool— where exclusionary discipline policies and practices disproportionately impact the educational experiences of many Black students, increasing their “risk for school disengagement, poor school outcomes, dropout, and involvement with juvenile justice” (Skiba et al., 2014, p. 558).

Exclusionary discipline is any form of discipline that removes a child from the learning environment, including office disciplinary referral, in- and out-of-school-suspension, and expulsion (Wesley & Ellis, 2017, p. 22). It undermines the educational experiences of Black students, as they face disciplinary sanctions more often than students of other racial/ethnic groups (United States Government Accountability Office [GAO], 2018). Significant racial disproportionality raises further concerns that “schools may be engaging in racial discrimination that violates federal Civil Rights laws” (GAO, 2018, p.10). Equally disturbing is the fact that such disparities are evident as early as preschool (GAO, 2018). According to the GAO (2018) report, Black students represented almost half (i.e., 47%) of all students suspended from public preschools in 2013/2014, even though they made up only 19% of the resident population; of those suspended, 35% were Black boys, while 12% were Black girls.

The aforementioned statistics signal an unsettling reality about the potential for bias and inequity in the earliest years of school, a time during which schools are expected to nurture the unlimited potential, curiosity, and motivation that characterize children’s early years. For too many Black boys, the transition from “brilliant baby” to “child at risk” is an inevitable one (Rashid, 2009), and exclusionary discipline practices and policies further exacerbate that risk. Research shows that educators do observe Black boys more closely when they expect challenging behaviors to occur, leading some to speculate that implicit bias may indeed account for some of the disparities in exclusionary discipline among preschoolers (Gilliam et al., 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Pyramid Model: The pyramid model is a conceptual framework of evidence-based practices for promoting young children’s healthy social and emotional development ( NCPMI, n.d. , Pyramid Model Overview).

Dysconsciousness: Dyconsciousness is an uncritical habit of mind pertaining to societal inequities.

Deliberative Dialogue: A process that allows research evidence to be considered together with the views, experiences, and tacit knowledge of those who will be involved in, or affected by, future decisions about a high priority issue.

Racism/Ableism: Racism and ableism work synergistically to influence perceptions of normality.

DisCrit: Dis/ability Critical Race Studies focus on the ways that race and dis/ability marginalize certain groups of people.

Dis/ability: Dis/ability refers to a particular construction of difference (e.g., physical, cognitive), based on perceptions of differences from the norm.

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