There are a lot of things you can do to heighten awareness and advocate for change right now.

Familiarize yourself with the states where things are really bad

It’s hard enough being a kid these days, but when it comes to punitive school discipline, some states make it way harder. Our “Punitive Index” provides a calculation of the prevalence of punitive, exclusionary disciplinary practices for each state based on the weighted total of these practices relative to the estimated population of children under the age of 18 in the state.

Get to know the facts

There is an association between treating kids badly and rates of incarceration of adults. Visit The Sentencing Project to see incarceration rates by state.

Punitive discipline is still being applied disproportionately to Black and Brown students. Differences in suspension rates among Black and White students have been found in virtually every published study across school districts regardless of the methodological and analytic strategies used. These disparities are not explained by differences in misbehavior.

A single suspension in the 9th grade considerably lowers the odds that a student will graduate from high school or enroll in college.

Suspended students spend less time in the classroom, which further hinders their access to a educational opportunities.

Findings in a multilevel analysis also indicated that administrator perspectives on discipline may be a stronger predictor of suspension disparities than students’ behaviors or sociodemographic characteristics.

All kids are affected adversely when ineffective school discipline is deployed. When they see classmates being treated in an inhumane way, and when they don’t feel safe at school.

To learn more about the harm done by punitive/exclusionary disciplinary practices and disproportionality, please reference our non-exhaustive listing of resources and research.

Learn about non-punitive, non-adversarial interventions

Familiarize yourself with Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) which focuses on relationship-building, communication, skill-enhancement, and collaboration rather than punitive, ineffective disciplinary tactics.

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Organize a study group in your school and take the Guided Tour

Use the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP) and the ALSUP Guide to learn how to solve problems collaboratively and proactively. It will help you focus less on modifying a challenging student’s problematic behavior and focus more on the problems that are causing that behavior.

Dedicate staff time for solving problems with students

There are pockets of time during the school day — before school, after school, during lunch, during recess, during prep time (if it exists) — to organize a system for providing coverage.

Partner with parents

Most conflict between parents and educators occurs because the parties never achieve common ground on a child’s lagging skills and unsolved problems. You have information about the student that can help the folks at home, and the home folks have information about the student that may benefit you at school. If you impose solutions on parents, don’t be surprised if they try to impose solutions on you. Blaming parents for the expectations their child is having difficulty meeting at school is misguided and counterproductive.

Use the data

The discipline referral system and the special education referral system are assessment practices that focus primarily on behavior and support obsolete, reactive ways of doing things. Eighty to ninety percent of the discipline referrals in your school are being accounted for by the same 10-20 students. That’s proof that all those referrals (and the detentions and suspensions that happen next) aren’t working. In other words, punitive school disciplinary practices aren’t working for the students who need your help the most and aren’t needed for the students who don’t have behavior problems.

Heighten awareness and change the structures

Is discipline in your classroom and school equitable for all students? Is your school disproportionately applying punitive discipline to Black and Brown students? Far better to be solving problems disproportionately than to be applying punitive discipline disproportionately. And far better to be viewing a student’s difficulties through the prism of lagging skills and unsolved problems than through the prism of race.


Partner with the caregivers at your school

Most conflict between parents and educators occurs because the parties never achieve common ground on a child’s lagging skills and unsolved problems. You have information about your child that can help the folks at school, and the folks at school have information about your child that may benefit you at home. Once a consensus on lagging skills and unsolved problems is achieved using the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems, it’s usually a lot easier to achieve consensus on solutions.

Don’t accept the maltreatment of your child

There are always non-punitive, non-adversarial alternatives. Restraint and seclusion are usually acts of desperation that are deployed in situations that have already spun out of control in response to highly predictable unsolved problems. The first time a problem causes challenging behavior, it’s not a surprise anymore. And all those detentions and suspensions your child is receiving aren’t solving any problems and aren’t making classmates any safer. And paddling? That’s not an act of love; it’s an act of bullying.

Don’t accept blame for your child’s behavioral challenges

The folks who are blaming you may not realize you have other children in your home who are well-behaved. Blaming doesn’t help collaboration between parents and teachers, and everyone has an important role to play in helping your child.

Leverage our resources

Take the Guided Tour for Parents so you can practice and model collaboration in your home, with your spouse and your children. Having difficulty getting your spouse on board? Make sure he or she takes the tour too. Listen to the vast library of podcasts available on iTunes. And join our Facebook group for parents so you can get some support and collective wisdom. Then let the folks at school know how about those new lenses and practices are working for you at home.

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If compassion and mercy are not compatible with politics, then something is the matter with politics.

- U.S. President Gerald R. Ford