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Counselors and Cultural (in)Competence: How D.C. Public Schools Impair the Academic Self-Concepts of Black Youth

Jazlyn White (August, 2023)


This paper assesses the efficacy of school counseling in Washington, D.C. to further explicate how racism is embedded into public education. Consistent racial achievement gaps between Black and white high schoolers in the district demonstrate how Black students, already historically marginalized, are underserved by counselors. The insufficient number of counselors in D.C. public schools – 1 for every 444 students – compound racial achievement gaps by depleting their relationships with students and inciting their implicit biases. Counselors frequently have lower academic standards for Black high-schoolers and withhold them from Advanced Placement classes. Similarly, D.C. public schools continue to neglect and oppress Black students as Black students experience higher disciplinary rates – at the hands of School Resource Officers (SROs) nonetheless. This paper concludes with recommendations for public schools and counselors, identifying culturally responsive education as a theoretical framework critical to enhancing curricula and challenging subconscious biases. Contributing to advocacy for Social Emotional Learning and wellness-oriented education, this research implores counselors to engage as change-agents to repair the relationship between Black students and Washington, D.C.’s public education system.

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