Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


College of Social Work

First Advisor

Aidyn L. Iachini


Despite the important role public schools serve in students’ lives, schools are at the center of racial, socio-economic, and political divide and the epicenter of traumatic events for students who are marginalized based on their racial or ethnic identity. While ample research has demonstrated educational inequities for these students, no study to date has examined the impact of teacher racial bias on the quality of student-teacher relationships within the context of the United States (US) pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade (PK-12) schools. A cross-sectional convergent mixed methods study was conducted to examine interpersonal racism in the classroom, and to specifically answer the following research questions: 1) Do PK-12 US teachers’ perceptions of their own implicit and explicit racial bias predict the quality of their relationships with students? 2) Does teacher-student racial mismatch moderate the relationship between US teacher perceptions of implicit and explicit racial bias and the quality of student-teacher relationships? 3) What are teachers’ perceptions of how students’ racial or ethnic identity influences the development and maintenance of student-teacher relationships? Current teachers (N = 124; nquant = 115; nqual = 100) representing 29 states responded to an online computer survey during Fall of 2022, which included measures of explicit racial bias, implicit racial bias, teacher-student racial mismatch, the quality of student-teacher relationships, and demographics. Quantitative data were analyzed using multiple linear regression in SPSS. Qualitative data were analyzed using a qualitative content analysis approach in MaxQDA. Results show teachers’ explicit racial bias was a statistically significant predictor of the quality of student-teacher relationships with higher levels of racist attitudes predicting lower quality student-teacher relationships. Teacher-student racial mismatch, however, did not moderate this relationship. Qualitative data indicated that teachers primarily described strategies for developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships with students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, two-thirds of teachers reported they “treated every student the same” when working with students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Implications are discussed related to advancing school social work and educational research and practice to create more equitable student outcomes for students from marginalized racial and ethnic identities.


© 2023, Tasha Marie Childs

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Social Work Commons