Wiener: Student Belonging Is Essential to Success. Education Policies Must Ensure School Is a Place Where Every Child Belongs

I started my career as a trial attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, vindicating students’ legal right to belong in school. My experiences taught me a lot about the corrosive effects of students being “othered” based on race, religion, disability status or English proficiency. In the most egregious cases, students were assigned to different campuses or shunted into basements and trailers, clearly signaling through physical separation that they did not belong. Lack of belonging was also conveyed in more subtle ways, through low expectations, punitive discipline and neglect — sowing the seeds of schools’ contributions to gaps that pervasively plague public education.

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