A Comparative Analysis of Teachers', Caucasian Parents', and Hispanic Parents' Views of Problematic School Survival Behaviors

Article excerpt


Scholars have asserted that the misclassification of culturally diverse students in programs for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) may be attributable, at least in part, to the mismatch between the behavioral expectations present in the students' home environments and those prevalent within schools. A preliminary study was conducted to explore whether Caucasian and Hispanic parents' views of negative classroom and interpersonal school survival behaviors were consistent with one another and with those of general and special education teachers. Overall, the results suggest that parents (Caucasian and Hispanic) generally hold similar views regarding the extent to which it was problematic for a student to exhibit such behaviors. In contrast, teachers (special and general educators) and parents (Caucasian and Hispanic) differed significantly on many items related to negative classroom and interpersonal school survival behaviors. The results and future research needs are discussed.

The number of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in the United States is increasing dramatically and is expected to continue (Carrasquillo, 1991). In contrast, the number of teachers from culturally diverse backgrounds is decreasing (Justiz & Kameen, 1988) and, by the turn of the century, the number of Caucasian teachers is expected to increase from 92% to 95% (Henry, 1990). Because the cultural context of most North American schools is middle class European American (Anderson, 1994; McIntyre, 1996; Mercer, 1979; Nelson, 1995; Peterson & Ishii-Jordan, 1994), the parallel increase in the number of culturally diverse students and Caucasian teachers imposes a contrast in cultural backgrounds. This contrast is even more apparent in special education where culturally diverse students are often disproportionately represented in various programs for students with disabilities, including those for pupils with emotional or behavioral disorders (Chinn & Hughes, 1987; Viadero, 1992; Garcia, 1988; U.S. Department of Education, 1995; Neisser, 1986; Kauffman, 1997). In this context, it is of interest to explore individuals' views of problematic school survival behaviors held by culturally diverse populations to develop an understanding of how culture may contribute to the misclassification of culturally diverse students in programs for those with emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD).

Studying culturally related views of behavioral expectations is important because behaviors vary by culture (Light & Martin, 1985; Toth, 1990). Thus, culture influences the way in which students from culturally diverse backgrounds behave. It appears that the literature in this area centers on the role of the family and the impact that the home environment has on student behaviors. For example, family norms (e.g., Harrison, Wilson, Pine, Chan, & Buriel, 1990), parental-child interactions (e.g., Marion, 1980; Shea & Bauer, 1985), and child-rearing practices (Kramer, 1988; Hartley, 1974) have been discussed by scholars in an attempt to demonstrate how student behavior varies according to the family interaction and parental roles found within the home environment. This literature highlights the differences in behavioral norms between the school and home environments and encourages teachers to become more sensitive to the family interactions and norms before deciding if behaviors are problematic or simply a refle ction of a student's cultural/family background.

Further explanations of culturally influenced behaviors center on the influence that family interaction has on communicative styles (e.g., Carfledge & Milburn, 1996; Rosando, 1994; Saracho & Gerstl, 1992). Scholars highlight the importance for teachers to be aware that although a student's style of communication may not be acceptable according to Caucasian norms of communication, his or her communicative behavior may be more accurately described as an expression of cultural style than as a problematic behavior (Rosando, 1994; Saracho & Gerstl, 1992). …