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

49 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2021 Last revised: 27 Jun 2022

See all articles by Thalia González

Thalia González

University of California Hastings College of Law ; Georgetown Law Center

Alexis Etow

ChangeLab Solutions

Cesar De La Vega


Date Written: June 25, 2022


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

Suggested Citation

González, Thalia and Etow, Alexis and De La Vega, Cesar, A Health Justice Response to School Discipline and Policing (June 25, 2022). Thalia González, Alexis Etow, & Cesar De La Vega, A Health Justice Response to School Discipline and Policing, 71 Am. U. L. Rev., Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3919216 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3919216

Thalia González (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of Law ( email )

200 McAllister St
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.uchastings.edu/people/thalia-gonzalez/

Georgetown Law Center ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

Alexis Etow

ChangeLab Solutions ( email )

2201 Broadway, Suite 502
Suite 502
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

Cesar De La Vega

Independent ( email )

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics