A Health Justice Response to School Discipline and Policing
Thalia González, Alexis Etow, & Cesar De La Vega, A Health Justice Response to School Discipline and Policing, 71 Am. U. L. Rev., Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2021 Last revised: 30 Sep 2021
Date Written: September 7, 2021
Inequities in school discipline and policing have been long documented by researchers and advocates. When compared to their white peers, longitudinal data is clear that Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) students are punished and policed at higher rates than their white classmates. For students with disabilities, especially those with intersectional identities, the impact of school discipline and policing is amplified, with disparities existing at some of the highest rates across multiple categories. And this disproportionality has not diminished in light of school closures during COVID-19. In fact, schools have employed new models of exclusion that operate simultaneously with “traditional” suspensions and expulsions. This has led to significant concerns that discipline disparities and educational inequities are not only being replicated, but exacerbated during a time of heightened vulnerability resulting from the pandemic. Despite evidence of the significant co-influential nature of health and education, school policies and practices have not been public health priorities. Too often, the operation of such policies and practices are narrated and re-narrated as falling outside health law and policy. This Article aims to alter this current pathway by examining two overused, yet underexamined drivers of health inequities—school discipline and policing—through the health justice framework. The application of health justice to discipline and policing is an essential first step to developing a more comprehensive approach to eliminating entrenched health inequities that have affected BIPOC students and students with disabilities before, during, as well as beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. In a time of increasing race-conscious approaches to public health and recognition that “all policy is health policy” the urgency to address discipline and school-based policing as a health justice priority is evident. From evidence of direct individual negative health outcomes to potential indirect adverse health consequences for peers, families, and communities, the predictable patterns of exposure and risk for diminished health status of marginalized students during key stages of developments underscores the importance of dismantling legal, political, and social structures that drive health injustice.
Keywords: health justice, social determinants of health, school discipline, school police, racial health equity, education law, public health, school to prison pipeline
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