Implicit Bias Part of New Guide to Framing School Discipline Reforms

School discipline has rightfully gained a high place on the agenda in efforts to create greater racial justice in education–and advocates have made remarkable progress on the issue.

Exclusionary discipline, police in schools, and “zero tolerance” policies are being rethought and revoked across the country, and advocates have sparked a shift toward more restorative approaches.

Now, in a changing policy climate, powerful frames are needed to protect those hard-fought wins and expand the number of young people who benefit from them.

Reframing School Discipline: A Strategic Communications Playbook by The Frameworks Institute ( is a timely update for the field. Download the guide.

It provides advocates with 12 framing strategies to expand the constituencies who understand and support reforms related to school climate. Its evidence-based recommendations include:

Stay in a collective action frame. School discipline reforms must consistently be framed as a shared responsibility with shared consequences. The sense of individualism runs deep in the American psyche, so advocates must take care to help the public move away from thinking that school discipline is a matter of concern only for children and their families. It impacts us all.

Unpack the chain of events that unfolds when children are removed from the classroom. By illustrating how exclusionary discipline negatively impacts students, advocates can direct the public away from default thinking that punishment works like a “dose of medicine” that leads to positive outcomes.

Talk about implicit bias. But don’t just name it; explain it. FrameWorks research shows that the public does not fully understand the role that race and racism play in creating educational disparities. Thus, simply naming the problem of disproportionate impact isn’t enough. Helping the public better understand implicit bias leads them to oppose exclusionary discipline and express a preference for more restorative approaches.

Advocates and communicators in the education, justice, and civil rights sectors can use these recommendations to challenge harmful policies, build support for reducing racial disparities in discipline, and cultivate awareness of alternative approaches such as restorative justice and trauma-informed schools.

Reframing School Discipline integrates the findings of new studies conducted with support from the Open Society Foundations Racial Equality Fund and incorporates insights from dozens of other FrameWorks studies, including projects on framing educational equity and juvenile justice reform.

About The Frameworks Institute. An independent nonprofit organization founded in 1999, FrameWorks has become known for its development of Strategic Frame Analysis ™, which roots communications practice in the cognitive and social sciences. FrameWorks designs, conducts, and publishes multi-method, multi-disciplinary communications research to empirically identify the most effective ways of reframing social and scientific topics.