A report from the Yale University Child Study Center found that preschool teachers and staff show signs of implicit racial bias when disciplining students and anticipating misbehavior.
In the study, over 130 educators were instructed to watch video clips of children in a classroom setting and look for indications of "challenging behavior." The clips did not show any misbehavior and the children featured were actually actors. However, the educators were unaware of these details and expected trouble.
Researchers used advanced eye-tracking technology to monitor which children the teachers observed. The results showed that educators show a tendency to more closely observe black students when expecting challenging behavior.
Black boys were the most closely surveyed with 42 percent of teachers saying that they required most of their attention when anticipating misbehavior. Thirty-four percent of teachers said the same for white boys, followed by 13 percent for white girls and 10 percent for black girls.
The research also accounted for the race of the educators. It found that black teachers tend to hold black students to a higher standard of behavior than their white peers, conveying “a belief that black children require harsh assessment and discipline to prepare them for a harsh world.”
Conversely, the study suggested that white teachers "may be acting on a stereotype that black preschoolers are more likely to misbehave in the first place, so they judge them against a different, more lenient standard than what they’re applying to white children."
The report's authors say that the findings help explain why black students tend to be suspended at much higher rates than white students.
Black preschool children are 3.6 times as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as their white counterparts, according to the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection. Additionally, black children represented 19 percent of all preschool enrollment, but accounted for 47 percent of out-of-school suspensions.
Yale child psychology professor Walter S. Gilman linked the findings to the national discussion about fatal shootings of black men by law enforcement.
"Implicit biases do not begin with black men and police. They begin with black preschoolers and their teachers, if not earlier," Gilman told The Washington Post. "Implicit bias is like the wind: You can’t see it, but you can sure see its effects.”
The findings of the Yale study were requested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was scheduled to be presented to federal and state officials Wednesday. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which supports children and families, primarily funded the research.