Culture of Fairness and Trust

Culture of fairness and trust includes the explicit activities that are designed to promote and foster a safe, positive, inclusive learning community where students are known well and their social, emotional, and intellectual needs are of primary concern.

Benchmark Descriptors

Transforming: Practices support and honor each student’s social, emotional, and intellectual growth.

  • School core values are the backbone of the community; they are integrated into courses and are manifested, practiced, and contested in several arenas including town meetings, advisories, classes, mediation, and Fairness Committees; students are recognized and acknowledged for their commitments to the school’s core values. Authentic student voice and feedback from students to teachers and administrators are among the school’s values.


  • The school demonstrates nondiscriminatory and inclusive policies, practices, and pedagogies. It models democratic practices that involve all who are directly affected by the school.


  • The school actively discovers and cultivates the unique gifts , talents, and passions that every human possesses. Classroom practices are based in student-centered teaching and learning and culturally responsive pedagogy. Students have access to participation in school-sponsored clubs and activities that celebrate and support students of diverse backgrounds, including culture, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation.


  • The school has an advisory in that students’ intellectual, emotional, and social needs are honored. In addition, each and every student has an adult advocate.


  • Family and community voice is also honored and play a role in the guiding of the school.


  • Discipline is viewed through a community-building lens of the school core values and involves student input and decision making through structures like Fairness Committees. An emphasis is placed on restorative justice, a process that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or correcting revealed violations against democratically agreed-upon school norms. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. Consequently, suspension is almost never used as a penalty, and mechanisms are in place to reintegrate students back into school culture when core values are violated.


  • Staff reflect the diversity of the student body.


  • The school facilitates and maintains structures that support the development of trusting relationships and dialogue across difference, such as roles (staff, students, parents) and backgrounds (race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and language and culture).


  • The tone of the school explicitly and self-consciously stresses values of unanxious expectation, of trust, and of decency. Student-to-student, teacher-to-student, and teacher-to-teacher interactions reflect a tone of decency, mutual respect, and respect for all cultures, socioeconomic status levels, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, able-ness. The school community is one of interdependence and mutual accountability where students and staff have a sense of belonging, safety, and nurturance. The school develops structures that support this work, including town or community meetings, advisory, Fairness Committees, student governance, student centered, culturally responsive curriculum, and school norms and safety language.


Developing: Practice is reflected in teacher planning and instruction.

  • Teachers are generalists first and specialists second. Teachers take on multiple roles such as adviser, advocate, peer coach, or facilitator.
  • Time is set aside for the school community to reflect on the learning experience and on the impact of understanding on the larger community and society.
  • Curricula incorporate cultural and learning diversity whenever possible.
  • Teachers have common planning time to work on interdisciplinary units, some of which include social justice.
  • Disciplinary decisions involve meetings that include parents, students, and other teachers. Suspension rates and disciplinary actions do not reflect on a particular demographic in the school.

Early: Learning about and planning for the practice has become important to the teaching staff.

  • Curricula attempt to include at least some cultural and learning diversity. Some teachers include a social justice component.
  • Teachers begin to work collaboratively, but the effort is inconsistent.
  • Discipline is generally handled by school administrators, sometimes assisted by the student’s adviser.
  • The teaching staff includes at least a few representatives of most demographic groups found in the student population.


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