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Letter: Beecher Bias?

To the Editor,

As a Hispanic member of this community and a parent of 2 young children, I am concerned about implicit bias at Beecher Road School (BRS).  When I did my student internship a few years ago at BRS, I was asked to assess a bilingual student because of suspected language delays.  There was clearly no delay as she was a typical dual language learner, learning to read in her second language.  Her teacher already had preconceived notions about her expectations for this child and her ability to succeed in the classroom.  Implicit bias is NOT racism.  Implicit bias is the way we respond subconsciously to an individual person or group of people based on characteristics of race, sex, gender, socio-economic status, physical appearance, religion etc.  It is something we all have and the more we recognize and are aware of our own biases and the impact it has on our work with children, the better we can serve the children in our community (see Harvard Implicit Bias tests online).

Recently, I have heard from parents in the community who have children of color that have expressed concerns about their children being treated differently than their peers by their teachers.  Professional development around implicit bias is essential and should be mandatory for all teachers and school staff.  There are excellent professional development resources, such as those from the Southern Poverty Law Center, that exist to ensure that teachers and staff get the training and support they need around implicit bias, thus creating a school community that is equitable and inclusive, which in the end will benefit all children in the classroom.

In 2016, Walter Gilliam’s research study at Yale Child Study Center highlighted implicit bias among preschool teachers and found that black children were being watched in the classroom by teachers more than white students and were more likely to be identified with “behavior problems” which led to preschool suspension.  Since teachers were looking mostly at the black children, more specifically black boys, they were being singled out for “behavior concerns”.  Often if you look for something in one place, that’s the only place you will most likely find it.

Beecher Road School’s mission statement is to prepare our children to become contributing members of an ever-changing global community.  If we want to prepare our children to live in a global community, then we need to do a better job respecting, embracing and celebrating our differences.  We must all work together to ensure that all children at BRS are treated equitably and supported by teachers who recognize their implicit bias and work consciously to address it.

Carissa Vega

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