Diversity and Inclusion in Law School and Higher Education

Experiences of Academically Dismissed Black and Latino Law Students: Stereotype Threat, Fight or Flight Coping Mechanisms, Isolation and Feelings of Systemic Betrayal

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



diverse campus environment, campus climate, student attrition, race and ethnicity


This study examined the law school environment as perceived by Black and Latino students who were academically dismissed from law school. This study focused on the perceptions of the former students, as opposed to the institutional perspective, which is unique to this field of inquiry. Strange and Banning's comprehensive ecological model on educational environments served as a foundation for this study. Eight participants who were academically dismissed from law school and identified as Black or Latino were interviewed. Through analysis, four themes emerged: experiences of stereotype threat, fight or flight used as a coping mechanism, isolation in the law school environment and culture, and perceptions of systemic betrayal and disparate treatment.

Findings lead to implications for the stakeholders in legal education, including the need to examine unintended consequences resulting from the environment with no pedagogical purpose. Finally, recommendations for students, faculty, administrators, and the American Bar Association are discussed, including the need for additional collection of data on minority student academic dismissal, and improvement of teaching methods to include evidence-based pedagogy. The resulting themes offer insights and opportunities for individual law students and law schools to increase the retention of minority law students.