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NEA and partners ramping up efforts to end school discipline disparities

New toolkit offers better alternatives to zero-tolerance school discipline policies

WASHINGTON - March 20, 2014 -

The National Education Association today joined school discipline reform advocates in renewed efforts to eradicate school discipline disparities, move away from harmful and counter-productive zero-tolerance discipline policies, and end the school-to-prison pipeline. Alongside a growing chorus of voices nationwide—parents, students, district officials, community organizations, and policymakers—NEA President Dennis Van Roekel called on the NEA’s 3 million members to embrace proven restorative approaches to addressing conflict in schools.

“We are ramping up our efforts to eradicate disruptive and harmful school discipline disparities that feed the school-to-prison pipeline,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Far too many of our most vulnerable students are excluded from class for minor, non-violent behavior. This approach puts them at great risk to fail and drop out, and too often sends them along an unnecessary journey down the school-to-prison pipeline.”  

The new collaborative toolkit, “Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships and Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools,” unveiled today comes on the heels of widely publicized independent research that challenges virtually every notion behind the frequent use of disciplinary policies that remove students from the classroom.

Among the independent research findings is the fact that there is no evidence to support the premise that “bad kids” should be removed from the classroom in order to ensure that “good kids” can learn. Importantly, the research also found clear evidence that students of color, particularly African-Americans, and students with disabilities are suspended at hugely disproportionate rates compared to white students, perpetuating racial and educational inequalities across the country.  LGBT students also are over-represented in suspension.

“Far too many of our teachers and school personnel lack the support and resources they need to meet their students’ developmental needs,” said Van Roekel. “This toolkit will help educators better understand precisely what restorative practices are and how their implementation fosters safe learning environments through community building and constructive conflict resolution.”

The toolkit illustrates how restorative practices can be seamlessly integrated into the classroom, curriculum and culture of schools, and how they can help transform schools to support the academic growth and health of all students. The toolkit includes frameworks and action steps for school-wide implementation. It includes real examples of districts and schools that successfully employ restorative practices.

The toolkit also includes a side-by-side comparison chart titled “A Tale of Two Schools,” which depicts a student moving through the current zero-tolerance educational system and a scenario in which the same student moves through a restorative practices-based educational system.

“NEA and its partners are ramping up efforts to address the escalating school-to-prison national problem. We remain committed to leading on these critical issues through high quality professional development training in the areas of cultural competence, culturally responsive practice, diversity, and social justice – and in the process, implementing key recommendations for decreasing disciplinary disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and ELL status.”

The toolkit was made possible by thousands of school discipline reform advocates, youth, parents, and educators, and contributions by the Advancement Project, The National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, the American Federation of Teachers, and the NEA.

To download a copy of the toolkit, please click here

To learn more about what NEA is doing to stop the school-to-prison pipeline click here. 

Follow the conversation at @NEAMedia #restorativepractices

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The National Education Association ( is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez


Human and Civil Rights