The ACLU of Delaware shares best practices for creating an inclusive school climate
As part of its work to promote safe and equitable schools, the ACLU of Delaware partnered with the Charter School of New Castle (CSNC) to create a model for an inclusive school climate.
This most recent effort is a response to ongoing disciplinary disparities faced by certain student populations.
Black students continue to have the highest out-of-school suspension rates than any other demographic at 12.4%.
Students with disabilities and low-income students also have high suspension rates at 11.1 and 11.9%.
ACLU-DE and CSNC argue an inclusive school environment can help keep all kids in the classroom.
Together they’ve created a framework that can be applied to any school.
It stresses the importance of using restorative, non-punitive discipline practices that encourage problem-solving and taking responsibility for one's behavior.
But teachers and school admin say it isn’t easy. It involves changing mindsets, establishing intentional relationships, and rethinking traditional protocols.
ACLU-DE Senior Policy Advocate Shannon Griffin says restorative, non-punitive discipline practices are used in other schools, but they don’t yield the same results.
“A lot of schools across the state are doing some form of restorative practices,” she explained. “It’s like levels, like with everything else. Some schools are doing it much more comprehensively, and some schools are kind of doing it in little segments.”
Griffin adds that data, including low suspension and staff turnover rates, are indicators that a school is successfully creating an inclusive environment.
CSNC stresses the importance of partnerships between educators and parents, with the message that students need to learn to respond to restorative discipline practices inside and outside of the school.
Communication with families is key. Educators are encouraged to set goals with parents and caregivers for their child, and make sure that they reiterate messages students learn in school.
One of CSNC teacher Alicia Morgan’s students was recently awarded Student of the Month.
“He was shining a light on another student who he thought was going to get it,” explained Morgan. “And then when I said his name, his reaction was just… He was like ‘Oh my gosh! I always wanted to be Student of the Month! I worked so hard and I didn’t get it so I didn’t think I was going to win.’ He was so excited. And it led to his mom emailing me to share how happy she was.”
Student of the Month is a positive reinforcement tactic she uses in her classroom to help incentivize good behavior and hard work.
By sharing what’s going on in the classroom with parents on a regular basis, Morgan can help assure that her students’ positive behavior is rewarded, and their negative behavior is addressed, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Morgan says the Student of the Month initiative has helped her classroom thrive.
“I do see a shift in kids' behavior because they want to be acknowledged. They want the shine. So they’re changing their behavior because they see that if they do the right thing they’ll get the attention that they want versus doing the wrong thing,” Morgan explained.
To help assure there is open communication between students, parents and staff, the CSNC has a Parent Advisory Committee that meets monthly.
To read ACLU-DE’s full report on inclusive school climates and their partnership with CSNC, visit aclu-de.org.