School safety is, rightly, a key priority and responsibility for teachers and school leaders as they work to foster a school climate that is welcoming, protective, and supportive of all students. Disciplinary policies are at the nexus of our ability to foster this school climate. Effective and equitable discipline practices not only keep students safe; they can also contribute to a learning environment that promotes engagement, trust, and academic achievement among all students.
In many schools, however, exclusionary measures and other forms of harsh discipline have become the norm rather than a last resort to protect students from threats to their safety. Minor misbehaviors — such as dress code violations, inappropriate language, and disrespect — now routinely result in exclusion from the classroom or school. Too often, these disciplinary measures substitute for approaches and strategies that help students improve their behavior and address underlying causes.