Exploring the Role of Mindfulness in Reducing Discipline Disparities by Race and Disability Status
Lindsay Romano

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



New York University

Primary Discipline

Teacher Education/Teaching and Learning
Teachers are the most important factor in determining student achievement compared to any other aspect of schooling. They operate on the front lines of society?s efforts to promote equity and play a pivotal role as gatekeepers of academic opportunities. Despite good intentions, most teachers, like the rest of society, harbor implicit biases, and studies indicate that teachers often elect harsher punishment for Black compared to White students. Labeling bias also contributes to discipline disparities, as Black students with disabilities experience the highest rates of exclusionary punishment compared to other student groups. The disparities in punitive discipline have notably detrimental effects on student outcomes and school climate, contributing to the racial opportunity gap and the school to prison pipeline. This mixed methods project aims to evaluate the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on educators? discipline decisions. Specifically, I will test the hypothesis that mindfulness training may reduce the impacts of implicit bias, leading participants to recommend less severe punishments for Black students with disabilities when exposed to vignettes through a randomized controlled experiment. The intervention is theoretically precise, grounded in social psychological research on implicit bias and mindfulness, enabling the causal test of mindfulness training on discipline decisions. Following the intervention, I will conduct interviews with educators to explore how the training translates into classroom instruction. Should this intervention prove effective, it can become a scalable way to embed insights from social psychology into teacher education to reduce the impacts of bias and improve student outcomes.
About Lindsay Romano
Lindsay Romano is a PhD candidate in special education in the department of Teaching and Learning at New York University. Her research examines how systemic oppressions, such as racism, ableism, and linguicism, impact the educational trajectories and outcomes of secondary students experiencing multiple marginalizations. She is particularly interested in how teachers play a role in perpetuating/disrupting inequities in their instruction and how mindfulness- and compassion-based practices may be used as tools for social justice in the classroom. Throughout her doctoral studies, Lindsay has worked on two IES-funded mixed methods projects, including a study investigating the postsecondary transition experiences of multilingual learners with disabilities and their teachers with Dr. Audrey Trainor and a study exploring how educator attitudes and mindsets are associated with school tracking practices for secondary multilingual learners with Dr. Michael Kieffer. On a third project, she examined the impacts of a mindfulness-based intervention on educators? critical consciousness with Dr. Doris Chang. Her work has been published in Career Development & Transition for Exceptional Individuals, Journal of Special Education, Education Sciences, Professional Development in Education, and Multiple Voices. Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, Lindsay was a high school special education teacher and instructional coach in urban school contexts, supporting teachers and school leaders in adopting more equitable instructional practices. In addition to the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, her work has been supported by the Mind and Life Institute, the Institute of Education Sciences-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training (IES-PIRT) program, and the Urban Doctoral Fellowship program through NYU.

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