To read this document, sign up for free access to our entire library

By joining the ChangeLab Solutions community, you'll get access to all our law & policy resources. And we'll notify you when we release a new tool related to your sector or area of interest.

Episode 5: Schools

Building healthy, equitable communities through transforming the school climate

Child Care & Schools

How can we create school environments that advance students’ well-being and promote equity? Why are school discipline policies a public health crisis?

Episode 5 explores school policies and practices that promote safe, nurturing, and healthy learning environments for all. You can read our blog post about ways to transform the physical and social environment of schools and promote healthy development of the whole child, watch a webinar that examines why exclusionary school discipline policies are a public health crisis, or listen to a panel of experts delve into innovative ways of connecting students to their school, managing discipline disparities, and promoting health equity.

Blog post

A positive school climate is the cornerstone of a healthy, safe, and supportive learning environment. To improve school climate, we need to meaningfully examine and address policies and practices that harm or alienate young people or that do not go far enough to advance health equity. ChangeLab Solutions’ senior staff attorney Alexis Etow and policy analyst Cesar De La Vega explore 5 areas in which law and policy have the power to transform school climate.

Read our blog post: Creating Safe and Supportive Schools: 5 Promising Areas for Policy Change


How can we transform schools to nurture all kids? In this webinar, we explored why exclusionary school discipline policies are a public health crisis. Specifically, we discussed the impact of adverse childhood experiences and trauma on children's well-being, how exclusionary school discipline policies can compound health inequities, and promising alternatives to punitive discipline policies.

This webinar features two exciting guest speakers: Kristen Harper of Child Trends discusses unjust application of exclusionary school discipline (ESD) practices and its harmful effects, and she examines past and present policy efforts to address the issue at various government levels. Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute shares her expertise on positive alternatives to ESD that advance equity, focusing on social and emotional learning.

Watch our webinar or download the slides: Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Through Transforming the School Climate

Expert Panel

We convened a virtual panel of innovators in creating nurturing and healthy learning environments. The panelists bring a diverse range of expertise from education policy to restorative justice and circle keeping, and they discuss constructive alternatives to exclusionary school discipline practices from an implementation perspective. You’ll hear insights from

  • Alexis Etow (moderator), senior staff attorney at ChangeLab Solutions
  • Students from The Alliance School of Milwaukee Public Schools, along with Heather Sattler, restorative practice teacher at The Alliance School
  • Ruth Cusick, senior staff attorney of statewide education rights for Public Counsel
  • Thalia González, associate professor of politics at Occidental College

Listen to our interactive expert panel or download the slides: Continued Conversation About School Climate

Episode 5 is only part of the conversation. To learn more about other elements of a healthy, equitable community, check out the rest of the episodes in the Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Series.