Teachers' anti-black biases in disciplinary decisions: The role of mindfulness

Tory L. Ash, Emily C. Helminen, Shiharu Yamashita, Joshua C. Felver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Research suggests that disparities in exclusionary discipline can be explained, in part, by teachers' anti-Black biases in disciplinary decision-making. An emerging body of literature also speaks to the benefits of cultivating mindfulness for bias reduction. The present study adds to the literature by assessing whether mindfulness is associated with differences in teachers' responses to student disciplinary infractions as a function of student signaled race, which was manipulated as a between-subjects factor. We predicted that teachers with lower levels of mindfulness, as measured via self-report, would demonstrate greater anti-Black bias in response to students' disciplinary files than teachers with higher levels of mindfulness. Teachers (N = 179) completed the study via an online research participant platform. Consistent with hypothesis, we found that participants' self-reported mindfulness in teaching moderated their responses to a disciplinary file as a function of student signaled race, b = −1.05, F(1, 175) = 4.50, p = 0.035, ηp 2 = 0.03, 95% CI [−2.03, −0.07]. Specifically, participants with lower levels of mindfulness rated the disciplinary infraction as more severe if it was enacted by a Black boy compared to a White boy. At higher levels of mindfulness, however, the opposite pattern emerged; participants demonstrated more leniency if the infraction was perpetrated by a Black boy, relative to a White boy. Our research adds to the literature and suggests that improving teachers' ability to remain present in the classroom may improve their ability to make more equitable decisions in managing students' misbehavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-87
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of School Psychology
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Mindfulness in teaching
  • Office discipline referrals
  • Racial bias
  • Racial disproportionality
  • School discipline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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