Where does racial bias start? As early as preschool.

Implicit bias does not begin with police and black men but with preschool, says one of the nation’s leading researchers on early childhood.

“Implicit bias is like the wind. You can’t see it but you can sure see its effect. It does not begin with black men and police; it begins with preschool,” said Walter S. Gilliam, director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center, in a press call with reporters.

Gilliam, whose work on expulsions in preschool is widely cited, released a new study Tuesday night that looks at how preschool teachers react to perceived misbehavior in children and whether race influenced what they saw.

His finding: Preschool teachers show a tendency to more closely observe blacks and especially black boys when challenging behaviors are expected. At the same time, black teachers hold black students to a higher standard of behavior than do their white counterparts.

“What is disturbing to us is our early childhood settings are not immune to the same racial disparities that plague our K-12 settings,” said Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary for Early Childhood Development, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services, in the media call.

To read more about the study findings, go to the AJC Get Schooled blog.

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