Research shows that students of color (especially African-American students) receive significantly higher rates of disciplinary action: more office referrals, more suspensions, and more expulsions. Disciplinary action can have lasting effects on students and may impact their future education, employment, and income.

As educators, it is important to implement equitable practices in our schools and communities to ensure that all students are treated fairly — no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, family income, disability, cultural background, or religious affiliation.

Where to Start

Schools are tackling the problem of inequity and unconscious bias with a multi-tiered strategy that includes shifting disciplinary practices within a Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports (PBIS) framework and building social and emotional competence for students and staff. Social and emotional learning (SEL) and PBIS work together to address the root cause of disproportionate disciplinary actions and referrals while simultaneously providing a flexible framework that addresses the unique needs of a school.

PBIS and SEL can be integrated into a range of school practices and procedures, including new teacher onboarding processes focused on equity, collaborative professional learning, district policies aimed at reducing suspensions, and restorative practices. Using SEL and PBIS, schools and districts are able to:

  • Help staff and students build prosocial skills
  • Establish a school environment that discourages problem behavior
  • Utilize multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) to meet the needs of all students
  • Promote culturally responsive teaching whereby every student is treated fairly

Equitable SEL In Practice

In order to disrupt inequity in schools, as educators, we need to examine our own unconscious biases and strive to overcome them. Here are a few ways SEL can help educators begin this process: (To access the links in this graphic, download it here.)

Terms to Know: To truly address the issue of inequity in schools, we need to understand how discipline disparities and unrealized bias are impacting students of color. The best approaches to achieving equity include a multi-tiered system that uses PBIS and SEL. To learn more, contact our experts at Aperture Education.

Equity refers to providing all students access to the resources they need to learn and succeed.

Unconscious Bias happens when a person is unknowingly influenced by either positive or negative stereotypes in their decisions. Unconscious bias can happen even if the person knows the stereotype to be inaccurate.

Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports (PBIS) uses evidence-based strategies and systems designed to increase academic performance, increase safety, decrease problem behavior, and establish positive school cultures.

Social and Emotional Learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. — The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)