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Through the eyes of our students: Black rising senior shares how implicit bias affects school experience

Blaine Purcell, a rising senior at Heritage High School in Wake Forest, said he sees implicit bias as the stem of racial inequity in schools and beyond. 

“Implicit bias is something that I see every day, but also something that I see being created every day,” Purcell said. Each person, Purcell said, should acknowledge the biases they hold. 

As EducationNC unpacks “E(race)ing Inequities: The State of Racial Equity in North Carolina Public Schools,” a new report from the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED), Purcell’s story is the second of three video installments that highlight stories of high school students of color. Watch Purcell’s account of how being black and gay affects his educational experience below. 

According to the new CREED report, in the 2016-17 school year, black students in North Carolina received out-of-school suspensions (OSS) at least once at almost twice the state average. Black students were also 16% more likely to drop out of high school than their white peers when controlling for relevant factors. 

From absenteeism to suspension to dropping out, Purcell said he sees a link. When students feel they are being treated unfairly, they lose motivation to try and start misbehaving more, he said.

“A lot of kids of color are being targeted, and it’s destroying their motivation for school and … that’s going to destroy their future because they’re going to lose it at such an early point,” Purcell said. “… [If] a kid doesn’t care, he’s going to start acting out. And he starts acting out, he’s gonna get pinpointed even more.”  

Editor’s note: James Ford is on contract with the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research from 2017-2020 while he leads this statewide study of equity in our schools. Center staff is supporting Ford’s leadership of the study, has conducted an independent verification of the data, and has edited the reports.

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Blaine using his middle name as his last name.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.