On March 2nd CEO Chris Chatmon participated in a panel on Addressing Disproportionate Discipline in Schools hosted by the California Department of Education. Joined by educational leaders from Los Angeles, San Diego and the state of California, the panel highlighted the way excessive disciplinary policies disproportionately harm Black, Latino, and Native American students, and can wind up pushing youth out of schools and away from opportunities altogether. 

The panel revealed that disciplinary practices like suspensions and expulsions don’t make schools safer. Instead, they make Black students feel more alienated, interrupting their academic progress, increasing dropout rates and setting youth on the school to prison pipeline.

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows — not the flower,” Chris said. In other words, that the educational system was designed to do what it’s doing now — creating disparate outcomes for Black students. It’s not the fault of the students. It’s about the adults who create the systems and how they value the students. 

The panel surfaced alternatives to excessive and exclusionary discipline practices, like opting for practices like culturally responsive restorative justice, emphasizing trauma-informed social and emotional learning, building community, and conflict resolution. These practices create a stronger school community that strengthens bonds between educators and students, and allows for meaningful opportunities for repair when conflict arises.

Still, as Chris shared on the panel, none of that matters if we’re not making space to listen to Black youth in these alternative environments. 

“Any decision that impacts the needs of Black children, Black children need to be at the decision making table.” Chris said. “We’re trying to design and solve for solutions of those furthest from opportunity, and we have it all wrong”

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