How to Create an Inclusive School Environment

The foundation of an inclusive school environment for all students in any school is a commitment on the part of faculty and staff to ensuring equity in all aspects of school life. 

Needless to say, this is difficult to do given how schooling has traditionally been structured in the United States. When we come to think of it, schools are often structured to atomize students from one another for various reasons, be they academic, behavioral, or for other reasons related to a school’s particular context. For example, schools often create differentiated ability grouping among students—i.e. honors or gifted classes, as well as special education classes—that may make it more difficult for students to interact with a diverse community of students. It can also make it harder to treat all students equally.

We also use punitive discipline in schools, like suspension, to exclude challenging students from the regular learning environment, which research has shown routinely fails to correct problem behaviors but also puts them at severe risk of falling behind and dropping out of school.  

In order to ensure equity, schools need to develop and implement different ways of promoting student achievement and positive behavior—like teaching, fostering, and celebrating kindness each and every day—that do not include separating or excluding students from a common school experience that sets high expectations for all students. Staff should be aided by well-implemented supports to meet students’ individual academic and social emotional needs.