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“Okay Boys and Girls, We’re Going to Talk About Race Today”: Exploring the Relationship Between Teachers’ Racial Attitudes and School Discipline at Schools Utilizing Restorative Practices

Thyberg, Christopher T. (2023) “Okay Boys and Girls, We’re Going to Talk About Race Today”: Exploring the Relationship Between Teachers’ Racial Attitudes and School Discipline at Schools Utilizing Restorative Practices. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Suspensions and expulsions from school often result in deleterious outcomes for students and contribute to the broader phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline, wherein children are funneled out of systems of learning and into the criminal legal system. Students of color, particularly Black students, are disproportionately excluded from school compared to their white peers. Numerous districts across the country are now using restorative practices, an intervention focused on relationship building, to reform school discipline policy and address this disparity. Research has demonstrated that a school’s use of restorative practices often reduces the total number of suspensions; however, the racial disparities in school discipline outcomes typically remain. Teachers play a crucial role in the implementation of restorative practices and in school discipline and thus have the capacity to mitigate or exacerbate inequitable school discipline outcomes. This mixed-methods study examines how teacher racial attitudes relate to discipline practices in schools that are utilizing restorative practices. Data are drawn from surveys and in-depth interviews conducted with in-service teachers working in schools using restorative practices. Racial attitudes among teachers ranged from color-blind to color-conscious, with some teachers displaying what I have labeled color-cautious racial attitudes, an in-between category wherein teachers recognize the societal significance of race but not in their schools. Analyses of survey data reveal that teachers with color-conscious attitudes use fewer office discipline referrals and have more positive perceptions of their students, their school’s safety, and the effectiveness of restorative practices. Through qualitative analysis, I discovered that teachers’ racial attitudes actively inform how they approach discipline. Professional development (PD) has been identified as a primary mechanism for building a color-conscious attitude. I explored teachers’ interest in color-conscious PD and perceived barriers and facilitators. I found that teachers are generally interested in training but also identified numerous barriers. I conclude this dissertation with implications for practice, policy, and research. Findings suggest that interventions to address racial disparities should not be race neutral and that restorative practices are enhanced when they are done in conjunction with anti-racist interventions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Thyberg, Christopher T.ctt19@pitt.eductt190000-0002-5915-4210
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGoodkind, Sarasaragoodkind@pitt.eduSaragoodkind
Committee MemberHuguley, Jameshuguley@pitt.eduhuguley0000-0003-4659-939X
Committee MemberFiguereo, Victorvfiguere@pitt.eduvfiguere0000-0003-2091-3723
Committee MemberDelale-O'Connor, Loriloridoc@pitt.eduloridoc
Date: 9 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 April 2023
Approval Date: 9 May 2023
Submission Date: 20 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 202
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: School-to-prison pipeline, school social work, racial attitude, color-blind racism
Date Deposited: 09 May 2023 17:40
Last Modified: 09 May 2023 17:40


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