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University of Central Florida Study Identifies Risk Factors African American Students Face from Institutional Racism


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African American students face more alienation, racial discrimination, and violence than their peers. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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A study co-authored by a University of Central Florida professor has laid out a framework for teachers and administrators to improve the health and academic outcomes of black youth. The study found that the alienation, racial discrimination, and violence black youth face at school can have adverse effects on their well-being. 

UCF’s Larry J. Walker says African American students who are expelled, suspended, or verbally reprimanded more frequently than their peers are also at a higher risk of truancy and mental health problems.

Walker says to mitigate this racial trauma, administrators should hire teachers from diverse backgrounds and involve parents in decisions around school governance policies. 

“We need to be thinking long-term. We can’t traumatize students and we know these students have more difficulty down the line and then expect them to be productive citizens.”

Walker says teachers and students should also be trained in deescalation strategies like mindfulness that can be used to resolve conflicts.

“We need to do a better job supporting the mental health needs of students. That means also making them feel welcomed and valued. Because those students are the economic engine of this country. Not today but ten, fifteen, twenty, and thirty years down the line.”

He says students who are labeled “problem students” and frequently disciplined also have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and risk-taking behaviors like alcohol and drug use.

The literature review study was published in the Journal of School Health

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

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Danielle Prieur grew up listening to her grandfather’s stories of swimming across the Detroit River from Canada and many other adventures. She’s been into storytelling ever since. She studied journalism at Northwestern University. She covers local and breaking news and is a backup host for "All Things ... Read Full Bio »

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