The Impact of high school student body diversity on perceptions of racism

Table: BEHAV1109
Experimentation location: Online (through school learning platform)
Regulated Research (Form 1c): No
Project continuation (Form 7): No

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This study focuses on identifying and analyzing the presence of racism within the student body at a school in Mercer County, New Jersey. Specifically, the questions involve asking students about how they perceive racism in context of relationships with other students. Racism has always existed in the history of the United States, but now it often takes the more nuanced form of less noticeable microaggressions. This makes it appear like racism is less present within a community, which can make it easier to ignore important conversations about race. Students were surveyed about their experiences within school, mostly focusing on student-student interactions. Likert scale data was analyzed using ANOVA Tukey Post Hoc HSD. Prominent results indicate that Black students agreed they are told they act like a certain race, while other groups were neutral or disagreed. Across gender and race lines, there were statistically signicificant differences that indicate a more neutral opinion of racial justice activism and race discussions at school for men, while women and nonbinary people showed positive opinions of these topics. Other results included identifying places where racial discrimination was most common, with unsupervised areas such as social media, lunch, and hallways being common places for it to occur. The research aims to give a background on racial attitudes of students in order to better address the gaps that exist in anti-racism learning, and to serve as information to allow students to be more aware of the environment they have existed in at school.



Fries-Britt, S. L., & Turner, B. (2001). Facing stereotypes: A case study of Black students on a White 

campus. Journal of College Student Development.


Gill, Wanda E. Perception of Advocacy Issues of Women versus Men. Jan. 1992. EBSCOhost,


Hurtado, S.. “Linking Diversity and Educational Purpose: How Diversity Affects the Classroom Environment and Student Development.” (2001).


Michael Hughes, and Steven A. Tuch. “Gender Differences in Whites’ Racial Attitudes: Are Women’s Attitudes Really More Favorable?” Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 66, no. 4, Dec. 2003, pp. 384–401. EBSCOhost,


“New Jersey Department of Education.” 2018-2019 Enrollment District Reported Data, The Official 

Web Site for The State of New Jersey, 2019,


“Official Site of The State of New Jersey.” NJ DOS - Division of Elections - Election Results Archive

Rogers, John, et al. “Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress and Hostility in America’s High Schools.” UCLA IDEA, UCLA IDEA, 1 Oct. 2017.







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Research Plan:


The people who will participate in this survey will be high schoolers, which will encompass roughly ages 13-19. Within the high school category, no student will be denied from taking this survey, whether by race, age, gender, or grade. The majority of participants will be minors. 

Participants will be found within the high school I attend, Princeton High School. Using peer connections, Ewing High School and Hopewell Valley High School will be contacted as well to ask permission to distribute this survey. Surveys will be administered through online classrooms, school pages, and social media. 

Over the summer of 2020, high school administrators were contacted regarding the survey in order to modify it for approval. Surveymonkey will be the survey platform used to create the survey, to be completed online as most schools are either completely remotely learning, or participating in a hybrid in-person/online system. The survey begins by discussing the purpose of the survey, informed consent, and a statement saying that participants are voluntarily participating in this survey, and that they can stop completing the survey any time.The survey is anonymous by name, and asks background questions, such as age, race, gender, grade level, and background information about classes as well. The main body of the survey is a series of likert-scale statements. Students will state whether they strongly disagree, disagree, are neutral, agree, or strongly agree with statements about racial discrimination, student body environments, and observations about how students interact with each other. The survey will be distributed to students by mid-November of 2020 through online classrooms and social media, and will ask questions aiming to understand how non-white and white students perceive racism, how class diversity contributes to tolerance, and whether there are differences between different schools in terms of these questions. The survey will take 5-10 minutes long, depending if students choose to fill out an optional open ended section at the end of the survey.

These surveys are anonymous (no collection of names, phone numbers, or email addresses will occur), which helps to eliminate risk of consequence for sharing negative experiences about school. There will be an open ended section to allow for any students to expand on anything regarding the topics in the survey. These responses will be heavily read through, and any hateful speech toward any group will be noted separately, but not included with other responses for analysis. There are not any other noted risks or safety precautions needed.

Time involved is a potential discomfort because students will not want to give up time to complete school work in order to complete this survey. To help combat this, I am asking administrators to allow me to administer this survey as a homeroom activity, to be completed during the gym period. Further discussion with other schools will have to be completed to determine a time for students to take this survey. The survey will also be available to take over the course of many weeks, to allow freedom to decide when to take the survey in order to fit in with school/extracurricular schedules. This survey, in any case, is very important in gaining a general description of the student environment in school. Without the detection and description of potential issues regarding racial discrimination/tension, there is no way that these issues can be solved.

  Data analysis will begin in December of 2020. First, the raw data has to be organized by race, school, age, and gender. Because the survey is organized into likert scale data, data will be analyzed using T-tests for comparisons between two groups (for example between two schools, or between genders), and ANOVA for comparisons between more than two groups (race, grade, age). In order to justify and analyze the significance of the research further, general trends from the data will be compared to similar studies, including “Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress and Hostility in America’s High Schools” by John Rogers.


Questions and Answers

1. What was the major objective of your project and what was your plan to achieve it? 

The major objective of my project was to take student experiences regarding racism at school and quantify it to better be able to identify and address possible differences in the way students view racism. My school is working on implementing a mandatory racial literacy curriculum, and I thought it would be important to understand what students believe in order to see what needs to be done. My plan was to put out an online survey that asked students whether they agreed with statements. The statements included feelings of belonging, activism, and experiences with racism by other students.

       a. Was that goal the result of any specific situation, experience, or problem you encountered?  

Over the summer, students started coming out on social media to detail discrimination they experienced within my school, and I thought that it would be interesting to see how these qualitative experiences reflected quantitatively.

       b. Were you trying to solve a problem, answer a question, or test a hypothesis?

I was trying to both solve a problem and answer a question. My question was "how do students' opinions and views surrounding racism and racial justice differ?" in order to work towards solving the problem that is lack of anti-racism teaching at school.

2. What were the major tasks you had to perform in order to complete your project?

I had to write a proposal in order to gain approval from my school's administration, write a survey, network to distribute my survey through teacher websites, organize my data, and analyze it to then write a paper.

       a. For teams, describe what each member worked on.


3. What is new or novel about your project?

A lot of sociological research on racism and students in high school is either qualitative or data is taken from the perspective of teachers, which is not always 100% accurate as they don't know the ins and outs of students lives. 

       a. Is there some aspect of your project's objective, or how you achieved it that you haven't done before?

I have never done a sociological research project, as most of the research in my research course has been more scientifically based.

       b. Is your project's objective, or the way you implemented it, different from anything you have seen?

Gaining quantitative data from students about racism was not something that I had seen, since most research papers on this topic that I found were interview based.

       c. If you believe your work to be unique in some way, what research have you done to confirm that it is?

I don't think that my research is completely unique in itself, as this topic has been addressed for decades, but the formulation of my survey questions and purpose are unique to my paper

4. What was the most challenging part of completing your project?

The survey distribution was the most challenging part of the project, as all of the contact with teachers and administrators was done online.

      a. What problems did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?

A problem I encountered was at first, I didn't have many responses, and I didn't have a diverse array of responses either. To help overcome this, I worked on contacting more teachers, as well as the heads of academic departments at my school so that I could have my survey distributed by a wider array of teachers. 

      b. What did you learn from overcoming these problems?

I learned that communication and networking are very important when trying to research. I had to contact multiple professors to get my survey approved, and work hard to continue contacting my administrators in order to get them to look at and approve my proposal.

5. If you were going to do this project again, are there any things you would you do differently the next time?

I would work on increasing the diversity of my survey respondents by contacting other important figures at my school like guidance counselors in order to get more consistent results. I would also focus on categorizing my Likert data more specifically so that I could group them into different topics.

6. Did working on this project give you any ideas for other projects? 

I am interesting in looking more into the gender gap in adolescent activism, as well as diving deeper into the statements that showed statistical significance, like how Black students agreed that were told they act like a certain race, more than students of other races agreed with that statement.

7. How did COVID-19 affect the completion of your project?

I had to complete my project completely online, which I think had an affect on my survey response numbers. Since most students at my school are learning online, a survey that's not mandatory can get lost in all of the other school work things they have to to on their computers.