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A New Toolkit for Schools Seeks to Reimagine School Discipline in the COVID-19 Era

Bryson King of Warren Township High School speaks on a panel about racial equity and allyship as part of a virtual convening organized by the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative (TSDC).

Bryson King of Warren Township High School speaks on a panel about racial equity and allyship as part of a virtual convening organized by the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative (TSDC).

By Mckenna Kohlenberg, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights  

If you were unable to make today’s virtual convening organized by the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative (TSDC), don’t worry – TSDC has published a guide, Tools for Transforming School Discipline in Remote and Blended Learning During COVID-19.

Download the toolkit

This resource-filled guide offers concrete recommendations and considerations on tough-but-important topics like using restorative justice practices to foster a positive learning environment; addressing trauma; implicit bias and anti-racism in the remote and blended learning environment; applying SB 100 and school discipline laws to remote or blended learning; and bullying and harassment in remote or blended learning.

The toolkit was compiled by attorneys and professionals with Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and other members of the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative’s Steering Committee, working in close partnership with a diverse committee of educators and youth, along with other stakeholders.

The Toolkit aims “to offer tools and suggestions to help guide Illinois school administrators, educators, and staff in creating a positive and supportive school climate and addressing challenging student behaviors in remote and blending learning environments during the COVID-19 crisis.”

The authors write:

We recognize that this is an uncertain time and that students and educators are adapting to an unprecedented environment. We also acknowledge that the COVID-19 crisis has compounded existing risk factors for marginalized students, particularly Black and Brown students and students with disabilities, who already faced disproportionately high rates of exclusionary discipline in school. Moreover, many Black students and educators have been affected by highly-publicized incidents of anti-Black police violence and structural racism. While there are many challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, this is also an opportunity to think creatively about ways to address inequities, and to reimagine practices around school safety and climate, instead of returning to “business as usual”. This document is intended to offer concrete, actionable suggestions from TSDC’s existing prevention-oriented, student-centered framework, including the TSDC Model Code of Conduct, which focuses on restorative and mental health supports rather than punishment and exclusion.

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This toolkit elevates the missing voice in COVID educational conversation: the voice of our students.

— Shayla Ewing (Teacher, Pekin High School)

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