“It should be obvious that students and school staff have the right to a safe, healthy and welcoming climate within their school walls, but school discipline policies, which—like testing policies—are where the rubber meets the road, aren’t always very good at dealing with the complexities of making this right real.
“We already know systemic issues—including the lack of investment—that have left students without counselors and mental health advocates, and teachers holding the bag for helping their students navigate increasingly complex challenges during the school day, are more the rule than the exception. We are also clear these pervasive inequities in school funding have created a gulf in resources between school districts serving low-income students and students of color and those serving white students, and have encouraged divisive policies that pit administrators against educators and their students, and disrespect the role of educators in devising student codes of conduct, behavior guidelines and plans for supporting students facing discipline. Ignoring these outside forces simply shifts the burden of creating and sustaining a safe climate onto classroom teachers, which is unfair and untenable.
“We agree that additional resources should be put toward hiring more teaching assistants and mental health professionals in high-poverty schools. At the same time, federal school discipline policies must clearly and unequivocally combat bias, particularly when so much of our political rhetoric today has sought to create division along racial lines.”
“Perhaps the most important lesson from this report is a reminder that we need to regularly listen to the voices of teachers in all education policymaking—especially on matters as important and contentious as school discipline and climate.”