Law and Order in School and Society: How Discipline and Policing Policies Harm Students of Color, and What We Can Do About It

Systemic violence and disparate school discipline policies hinder equitable, just, and safe schooling. They also restrict access to social opportunities and civil liberties. Research shows that schooling contexts and social policies set up the conditions for young people of color to experience violence in regularized, systematic, and destructive ways. This policy report centers on questions of race and disparate racial impacts. The authors draw from critical race theory (CRT) to redirect how educators might talk more productively about students’ social contexts, violence, and school discipline. They also explore how CRT might help educators consider how attempts to achieve “law and order” unfairly target students of color with a systemic form of violence that harms their ability to secure equitable, just schooling and social opportunity. The report ends with recommendations for shifting state and local policy to better reflect research evidence on the best approaches to keeping all children safe as they make their way through schools and society. A focus on state and local action becomes critical under the current federal civil rights and education policy context.