In the United States, racial disparities in education can be seen in rates of graduation from high school through doctoral programs, with People of Color reporting rates that are significantly lower than their White peers. Academic success has been significantly predicted in prior research by the support of teaching staff. Our Safety in the Classroom (SITC) program was developed to close the support gap for several different, often-marginalized groups within graduate school classes at a university in southern California. Students within racial, religious, and sexual orientation groups reported stronger perceptions of prejudice when compared to their peers. The SITC program provided all students an additional tool for resolving questions and concerns about any aspect of a particular course, including behaviors or statements of the instructor, and resulted in greater effect sizes on enhanced feelings of safety in the classroom for students of color. These results were achieved without undermining the students’ belief in their own ability to negotiate over or confront problems in the classroom. Expanded use and evaluation of the SITC program could contribute to the growing literature on academic success and achievement among underrepresented groups, providing one possible tool for helping to close the support gap.
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Jacob J. Ambrose, Tysheann Grant, Renee A. Joseph, Catherine E. Beer, Kenneth J. Thompson, Kristina R. Johnson, Constance J. Dalenberg