In this moment of unprecedented challenges for our nation’s schools, young people must have a voice in how we move forward.

The National Youth Response Movement (NYRM) – a group of 22 high school students, from 15 different cities, have created the following national policy recommendations to push national and school district leaders to invest in creating more racially just and equitable schools that center students’ voices, experiences and needs.  They will be sharing these recommendations at the National Youth Policy and Elections Roundtable on Thursday, August 6th, and then inviting their peers across the nation to take action to advocate for these changes and build the world they want to see!

Promote students’ social and emotional (SEL) well-being and mental health in schools.

  • Increase funding for professional development for teachers and school staff on trauma-informed school activities and social-emotional learning strategies.  
  • Increase funding more school-based health professionals and centers that integrate mental and physical health services to support the school community.
  • Improve evaluation of schools’ support of students’ well-being by using performance indicators such as school climate surveys, building positive student/teacher/school staff relationships, and connecting students to services provided by the school.
  • Acknowledge that many students belonging to minority groups have faced issues specifically connected to their racial/ethnic/cultural background and will need different supports to respond to their unique situation.
  • Prioritize additional Title I funding with the purpose of hiring culturally responsive mental health providers to make students more comfortable and provide the support they need.


Hire educators of color and provide culturally responsive training.

  • Build a pipeline of educators of color:
    • Increase funding to create and maintain “grow your own program” starting in high schools.
    • Increase funding for school districts to partner with and recruit from colleges of education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving and “minority-serving” institutions.
    • Increase funding for scholarships, loan forgiveness, and other financial incentives to attract diverse, high-achieving candidates to teacher and school leader preparation programs.
  • States and school districts should require anti-bias & culturally responsive teacher training for all teachers during their certification process, as well as require annual professional development.
  • Increase funding for training of teachers and school administrators on preventative and effective interventions when responding to disciplinary issues: including positive behavioral interventions and supports, social and emotional learning, peer juries, restorative justice processes, diversion, mentoring, mental health counseling, restitution, and community service programs instead of corporal punishments or involving police.

Build inclusive and participatory curriculum in schools.

  • Fund incentives for schools to prioritize students participation in current events and civic processes, such as sharing information and resources for registering to vote, including Action Civics curriculum and classes that support students to write timely op-eds, petition and lobby for current issues and participate in community events & actions (including protests), in partnership and collaboration with civic and local community organizations.
  • Mandate that all public and public charter schools require an ethnic studies unit or course to graduate MS and another to graduate HS. Funding should be provided for the creation of nationally-recognized and accredited ethnic studies curriculum (with accompanying standards) that includes, but is not limited, to history and literature of African-American, Latinx, Asian-American, Native American, queer and local immigrant communities.
  • Abolish Columbus Day nationally, and instead, school districts should celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, by learning about the history and cultures of indigenous populations in the United States. Rather than commemorating Christopher Columbus, a person who enslaved and murdered people, destroyed cultures, and promoted the colonization of the Americas, we seek to honor Native American communities by learning about their history and cultures, and support their demands for sovereignty, recognition and protection of their civil rights.


Prioritize and incorporate student voice in schools.

  • Student voice should be incorporated into every aspect of the education system. Fund incentives for schools to pilot “co-creation programs” requiring student involvement in shaping the curriculum, forming the class setup/environment, choosing assignment format/material, using youth participatory action research as a component of school evaluation and providing feedback for administrators.
  • Train school administrators to protect students’ right to freedom of speech, to assemble and to petition. All students have the right to shape decisions and institutions that will affect their future. This includes (but is not limited to) forming and maintaining a student government, student representation on school boards, and supporting student participation protests and walkouts.
  • Schools should offer more opportunities for student-centered, personalized learning: Incentivize the creation, training and use of curriculum that promotes students’ choice in how their class and assignments are designed, such as giving multi-options for student assignments, for students to be able to represent how they learn best, and reflects students’ interests and communities they come from, which are principles of youth participatory action research.

Stop the school to prison pipeline.

  • Reform school disciplinary practices to be focused on preventative and restorative justice measures, rather than on punishment.
    • Drastically reduce overall suspensions by banning school suspensions for attendance, dress code violations, and backtalk.
      • When necessary and for other infractions, prefer In-School Suspension.
    • Schools should establish levels of action for teachers/administrators to use when students get in trouble instead of detentions, suspensions, expulsions, and calling SROs (school resource officers) or police (school-based or not).
      • If school staff resort to any four of the methods above, a full report of the incident must be reviewed by an independent review board (less than a month after the incident) to ensure that there isn’t disproportionate impact based on race at the school level, and a twice-yearly summary report made publicly available for each school, along with individual incident reports (unless an incident is very sensitive).
      • As part of the incident report process, administrators must interview all students and relevant adults involved in order to gain a fuller context of the situation, before deciding on any possible consequences for students involved.
      • Fund and train school staff to use de-escalation practices to mitigate conflict in the school.
  • Eliminate school-based police and re-invest those funds toward social-emotional and mental health resources, other youth and family support services and hiring more school-based nurses, counselors, social workers and teachers trained in social-emotional learning strategies.
  • Pass legislation to repeal all federal juvenile crimes, end the trial and detention of youth as adults, and mandate reinvestment of savings into programs shown to reduce criminalization of youth. For current juvenile facilities, provide funds to increase youth educational attainment, and provide additional funding and support to communities where youth incarceration has been most prevalent.