Positive school discipline

The AFT has developed a number of resources to help educators implement positive discipline strategies, including:

Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships and Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools, was developed collaboratively by the AFT, the National Education Association, the Advancement Project, and the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, with support from The Atlantic Philanthropies. This guide for educators explains what restorative practices are and how they can be integrated into the classroom, curriculum, and school culture to help build safe learning environments.

Understanding the problem

In addition to resources from the AFT, our partners offer educators a number of excellent resources for engaging in this work:

Discipline Disparities: A Research-to-Practice Collaborative
The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative is a culmination of research on zero-tolerance policies and more effective approaches to school discipline.

Teaching Tolerance
A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance offers professional development to help teachers ensure that schools are diverse, welcoming communities.

Advancing School Discipline Reform
(National Association of State Boards of Education report)
American Institutes for Research analysts Greta Colombi and David Osher report the latest findings on punitive school discipline policies, the effect they have on students, and alternative methods of discipline.

The Hidden Cost of Suspension: How Can Kids Learn If They’re Not in School?
(National Center for Education Statistics data maps)
These interactive data maps show the percentage of students who have received one or more out-of-school suspensions by district, disability status, race, and gender, using data from the federal Office for Civil Rights.

National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments
The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, provides training and support to state administrators, school district administrators, institutions of higher education, teachers, school support staff, communities, families, and students to improve learning environments.

Moving forward

Many terrific programs can be used to maintain order in the classroom while helping educators focus less on punishment and more on teaching students how to handle situations differently. In addition to the guide on restorative practices, the following can help:

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
To learn more about PBIS and training opportunities, the Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and the Culturally Responsive Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports initiative are two good places to start.

Social and Emotional Learning
For more about social and emotional learning and how it relates to school discipline, the Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children features resources for educators and caregivers about enhancing social skills for young children with challenging behavior. Also, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, which operates in eight urban districts, including Chicago and Cleveland, offers resources about social and emotional learning, bullying prevention, and educator training. For early childhood educators, the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning is another valuable resource.

Positive School Climates
The National School Climate Center offers a number of resources, including a list of specific dimensions that characterize a healthy school climate.

School Safety
The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence provides assistance to groups committed to understanding and preventing violence; its Safe Communities Safe Schools Initiative offers research on school safety and prevention through publications, trainings, and technical assistance.

Mental Health
For supports to improve the lives of children and young adults with mental health challenges, the National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health provides trainings, webinars, and other resources.

Educational Equity
The Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd provides professional development and technical assistance on civil rights and educational equity to schools and education agencies in Arizona, California, and Nevada.