One day this past March, a middle school student placed a new Air Jordan on his desk at school in Montgomery County, Maryland. The boy, who is Latino, became fixated on the shoe, rubbing the leather and fingering the laces. His teacher, who is white, asked him to put it away, but the boy refused. He became “combative,” according to the teacher, and a tug-of-war ensued. Security was called to remove the shoe.
In schools, a tussle over a shoe or a phone can quickly escalate—sometimes to a suspension or worse—leaving educators, parents, and students wondering what went wrong. As research is finding, these pervasive misunderstandings can be rooted in assumptions and biases about race and culture, and have the potential to alter
the course of students’ lives.