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Reframing School Discipline: A Strategic Communications Playbook

January 18, 2018

How can advocates for more eective, more equitable approaches to school discipline talk about this issue in a way that deepens understanding, attracts new allies, and builds a larger constituency for meaningful change? This strategic messaging playbook, Reframing School Discipline: A Strategic Communications Playbook, created by the FrameWorks Institute, offers guidance.

In advancing greater social justice in the United States, it is critical to ensure that the nation’s schools serve as gateways to fuller participation in economic, social, and political life, particularly for youth of color and other marginalized groups. We hope that you find these framing tools and techniques helpful in your work to support greater fairness, equality, and justice in American school discipline.

The strategies for reframing school discipline include:

  1. Frame communications with an eye toward redirecting public thinking, not merely rebutting it.
  2. Stay in a collective action frame.
  3. Go for understanding of causes and consequences, not outrage at absurdity.
  4. Don’t dwell on “bad actors.” Instead, pivot to “bad policies.”
  5. Talk about implicit bias. But don’t just name it; explain it.
  6. Unpack the chain of events that unfolds when children are removed from the classroom.
  7. Offer a compelling alternative vision by explaining how supportive discipline works.
  8. Anticipate public thinking about race, and craft explanations that prevent deficit thinking and promote structural thinking.
  9. Take extra measures to cue structural interpretations of any data on disparities.
  10. Consistently use language, imagery, and tone that cue the Value of Pragmatism, and avoid Values that could cue “us vs. them” thinking.
  11. Highlight structural solutions that go beyond “training” and “awareness.”
  12. When talking about the connections between student behavior and mental health, use Toxic Stress to position the issue.

To access the full toolkit, click here.