Research article

Legitimating Discrimination Against Students with Disability in School: The Role of Justifications of Discriminatory Behavior



Teachers are caught between the injunction of an inclusive school for all students and the logistic difficulties of such prescriptions. As a consequence, they might be tolerant toward a discriminating peer when they justify the exclusion of students with disability with benevolent arguments. Indeed, people are more likely to accept discriminatory behaviors covered by benevolent justifications rather than by hostile ones. The aim of this experimental study (N = 134) was to test if teachers’ willingness to distance themselves from a colleague discriminating against students with disability depends on the justification he/she provided and if attribution to prejudice mediates this relationship. Active teachers read vignettes depicting situations of elementary school student inclusion at school. Through three versions, we manipulated the inclusion of a student with disability by a colleague in his/her classroom (inclusion, exclusion with benevolent justification, or exclusion with hostile justification). Results showed that teachers expressed less backlash and willingness to distance themselves from the colleague when he/she included, rather than excluded, the student and when the reasons for exclusion were benevolent rather than hostile. Finally, attribution to prejudice to the perpetrator mediated the effects of the justification on the distancing measures. These results replicated previous findings regarding the impact of the type of justification on the attribution to prejudice to the case of ableism and show its side effect of willingness to distance from an ingroup perpetrator.


ableismbenevolent discriminationhostile discriminationdistancing
  • Year: 2021
  • Volume: 34 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 1
  • DOI: 10.5334/irsp.357
  • Submitted on 17 Sep 2019
  • Accepted on 21 Oct 2020
  • Published on 13 Jan 2021
  • Peer Reviewed