Addressing In-School Disciplinary Concerns Post-Covid

Post-COVID schools across the nation have seen an increase of in-school conflict. In one survey, the National Center for Educational Statistics found over 84% of schools believe the pandemic impacted the emotional and behavioral development of students. The National Center for Education Statistics also found that nearly half of schools across the nation have experienced an increase in student misconduct, rowdiness outside the classroom, and disrespect towards teachers and staff. How are schools addressing this issue?

Recently public schools within Allegheny County have moved away from “zero-tolerance” discipline policies. These policies disproportionately affect students of color and have not proven to help decrease conflict within schools. These changes are part of the Just Discipline Project, a research-to-practice initiative from Pitt aims to address disciplinary concerns in schools. The program aims to improve communication between teachers and students so conflict can be addressed without jumping to suspending students. By strengthening communication and offering additional support staff the project improves the overall culture of the participating schools. Data collected by the program found that 70% of school suspensions in participating schools were “conduct” related, which included dress code violations and attendance issues. These conflicts should not result in students losing their right to receive an education, but that is exactly what is happening.

By supporting educators and students alike the Just Discipline Project is helping teachers better understand their students and their biases so they can respond to conflict with empathy. The Just Discipline Project also advocated for equity policies to ensure that students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners are not disproportionately targeted by school discipline policies. As of their last published report the Just Discipline Project is working with 10 schools within Allegheny County and has seen a 30% decrease in suspension rates. 


Is your school participating in the Just Discipline Project? If not, do you think your school could benefit from participating?

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