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Buffering Effects of Racial Discrimination on School Engagement: The Role of Culturally Responsive Teachers and Caring School Police

NCJ Number
Journal of School Health Volume: 90 Issue: 12 Dated: 2020 Pages: 1019-1029
Date Published
December 2020
11 pages

Since urban Black adolescents' well-being in the early high school years can be negatively impacted by exposure to racial discrimination and these impacts may be buffered by supportive relationships with adults at school, the current study considered both the protective and promotive effects of culturally responsive teachers and caring school police on school engagement for students exposed to racial discrimination across settings.


This study leveraged baseline student reports from a sample of urban, predominantly Black high school students with elevated teacher-rated levels of aggressive behavior (N = 397 9th graders; 91.2 percent Black; 50.4 percent male; J = 10 schools). Using a path model with full-information maximum likelihood estimation, the study examined the associations of racial discrimination, teacher cultural responsiveness, and school police caring in relation to school engagement and school disconnection, adjusting for covariates, including family racial socialization. The study found that Frequency of racial discrimination was significantly associated with lower school engagement and greater school disconnection. Teacher cultural responsiveness was significantly favorably associated with all outcomes. Police caring had no significant direct associations; however, there were moderation effects. When police caring was below average, increased racial discrimination was associated with significantly poorer attitudes toward school. Findings suggest that students' perceptions of school police caring may buffer links between racial discrimination experiences and school disconnection. Moreover, students who perceive that their teachers are culturally responsive may feel more engaged at school. Interventions to promote teachers' and school police officers' cultural responsiveness and caring may improve engagement among at-risk urban youth who experience racial discrimination. (publisher abstract modified)




Date Published: December 1, 2020