Theses Doctoral

Black Parents, Vigilance, and Public Schools: Trust, Distrust, and the Relationships Between Parents and Schools in New York City

Hill, Kathryn

My dissertation examines the distrust and trust that New York City African-American parents place in schools at a moment when market-based education policies and gentrification are transforming the landscape of public schools in many historically Black urban communities.
In my study, I tease apart how the nature of parent trust in local public schools might be different from the nature of trust in the institution of public schooling or faith in public education, as Black parents may expect different things from the local school and the school system. I also explore how trust or distrust in parent-school relationships develops, by treating trusting as a dynamic process, shaped by past socialization and experiences, as well as current experiences with schools. I examine parents’ accounts of critical moments in their relationship with their child’s schools; such as finding and enrolling their children in a new school, impressions of teaching and classroom management and to what extent schools respected their parent involvement. I find that the parent-school relationship develops different for Black parents who send their children to traditional public schools and charter schools, but that in general, the parent perceptions of schools’ lack of care for Black children and lack of respect for Black parents are what drives distrust.
By examining how trust in public schools might develop uniquely for Black Americans, my study develops treatments of trust in education research and theory by challenging the functionalist and power-neutral assumption that trust in schools is inherently constructive. By centering the perspectives of Black parents to better understand how legacies of institutional racism impede the development of trust in schools, I highlight how these normative assumptions about parent trust in schools often elide the role of socio-cultural exclusion, power asymmetries, discrimination, and a legacy of institutional racism and neglect—across many institutional contexts—that foreground orientations of parents of color toward educators and schools. Indeed, it is often prudent for Black parents to distrust schools and educators in order to protect their children because they have not been trustworthy. In addition, my study also illuminates whether changing urban school systems are deemed legitimate in the eyes of the public, and what kinds of parent-school relationships can foster greater trust.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Pallas, Aaron M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 27, 2018