The AFT has long championed the idea that all schools should be safe and welcoming places. Teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn unless they feel physically secure and emotionally connected. But the reality is that too many students—particularly students of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth; students with disabilities; and students belonging to ethnic and religious minorities—enter school every day feeling neither welcome nor safe.
The winter issue of American Educator explores new research on the ways that members of the school community can work together to ensure that schools are safe and welcoming for everyone. It features an article by Russell J. Skiba and Daniel J. Losen on the history of zero-tolerance policies and how, for the last 20 years, such overly harsh measures have not worked for our most vulnerable students. This article also explains that research-based alternatives focused on social-emotional learning are far more effective, provided teachers and administrators receive essential training and support.
An article by Dana M. Ashley, the director of the Positive Learning Collaborative, jointly run by the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, offers concrete ways educators can head off disruptive behavior and help all students reach their potential. Meanwhile, an article on a union and districtwide effort in New Haven, Conn., shows how educators are being trained in restorative practices to improve school climates and keep students in school and learning.
Two longtime educators, Lynne Anderson-Loy and Kimberly Colbert, discuss the complex nature of school discipline, its disparate impact on students of color, and the need to support educators with tools to implement effective discipline strategies.
Researcher Cheryl Staats explains what educators should know about implicit bias and how to mitigate its effects, while Kavitha Mediratta, of the Atlantic Philanthropies, explores the role of philanthropy in promoting positive approaches to school discipline.
This special issue concludes with a comprehensive list of resources on positive school discipline created by the AFT as well as several partners and allies.