Schools where students feel oppressed or face bullying, harassment or discrimination also hamper students’ ability to learn. Has the school taken steps to create a safe, welcoming school environment for all students, including students from all racial, ethnic and religious groups, genders and sexual orientations? To what extent has the school developed clear plans to proactively include the culture and identity of all students on campus and in the curriculum? How does the school prevent discrimination for different sub-populations, and how does it equitably and effectively resolve bullying or discrimination when it occurs? What national or local resources and curriculum does the school use to support the academic, social and emotional well-being of students? How does the school include parents as partners in the development of school culture?
A critical component of creating a healthy school culture is having a positive, restorative and non-exclusionary approach to school discipline. Students cannot access rich learning opportunities when they are excluded from school through suspensions, expulsions, and similar approaches to discipline. While suspensions are sometimes necessary and appropriate, these policies are particularly troubling when they disproportionally exclude students of color, special education students or lower-SES students. What does this school do to ensure that student discipline is approached equitably? Is as non-exclusionary as possible? Does the school have an active and successful plan to help students learn positive behavior and maintain self‐control? Does the school provide learning resources for suspended students so that they do not fall behind? Do suspended students and their families understand their rights and obligations, and do they have knowledge of and access to a clear appeal process?