Addressing disproportionate discipline can feel like a daunting task for any district. Using your data to identify vulnerable decision points in your day-to-day routines and building in a neutralizing routine is one concrete way to engage in the work of equity.


Disproportionate discipline in our schools is not the result of overt racial bias, but rather the result of implicit bias present in individuals and in our systems. Implicit bias is defined as “…the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” (Kirwan Institute, 2016) Tackling something we can’t see can be intimidating, but like all other problems in education, data will point your team in the right direction. 

Step 1: Use data to identify your personal vulnerable decision points (VDPs). VDPs are situations in your day in which you are more likely to make decisions negatively impacted by implicit bias. Situations may include: fatigue, time of day, vague definitions of problem behaviors, or snap judgments. One study showed judges in Israel are more likely to grant parole on a full stomach (so if you find yourself in this situation, schedule your parole hearing for right after lunch). 

Lay Off Me Starving GIF - LayOffMe Starving Hungry GIFs

This video (4:39) overviews using disaggregated data in more detail.

Step 2: Create a neutralizing routine to counteract your VDP. A neutralizing routine is an alternate response that is brief, doable and delays your knee-jerk reaction. If you’re a judge, you may consider packing protein snacks in the spirit of justice.

Personal Example: Step 1 - Vulnerable Decision Point: “The Witching Hour” is the time between when you arrive home from work/daycare and when supper is ready. Step 2 - Neutralizing routine: Provide kids with a sucker upon arrival at home (lasts a long time, reduces length of time without food). Even better, have them count the licks to find the center!

Educational Example: Step 1 - Vulnerable Decision Point: When students publicly question a direction/activity (perceived as disrespectful). Step 2 - Neutralizing routine: Take two belly breaths while walking over to the student to engage in a private discussion and analyze the situation (delay snap judgment surrounding a vaguely defined infraction: disrespect). 

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently." -Maya Angelou