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Schools closing the discipline gap

Suspension and expulsion give way to restorative justice and other equity initiatives in K12

By Jessica Ablamsky

BCPS_Promise-1                                                  BROWARD PROMISE—Members of the Broward County community, including police officers and court officials, attend a PROMISE program meeting, above. The program puts students in trouble into a special education program to learn from mistakes.

In the wake of a divisive presidential election, hundreds of students from about a dozen high schools in Oakland, California, cut class last November to voice their discontent with President-elect Donald Trump.

Rather than demand students return to school, faculty at Oakland USD supported the peaceful demonstration, where students could express their feelings, says David Yusem, Oakland’s restorative justice program coordinator.

It is part of a transformation in the district, which in recent years has sought to replace zero-tolerance discipline policies with alternatives designed to eliminate the racial divide in school discipline.

Restorative Discipline Makes Huge Impact in Texas Elementary and Middle Schools

Written by Cindy Long for NEAToday (August 25, 2016)







Dallas-NEA, the Dallas affiliate of the Texas State Teachers Association, collaborated with Dallas Independent School District to pilot restorative discipline programs in six Dallas elementary and middle schools – Caillet Elementary, Dunbar Learning Center, and Medrano, Gaston, Hood and Boude Storey middle schools. A grant from the National Education Association helped fund teacher training in the practice.

The results speak for themselves: Last year, in-school suspensions at the piloted schools dropped by 70%. Out-of-school suspensions dropped by 77%. The number of students sent to alternative school was cut in half.

“This effort has focused on students building relationships with teachers in the hopes that in these relationships, problems can be addressed and solved before they become bigger issues,” says David Griffin, teacher leader with Dallas ISD and a member of the NEA-Dallas board of directors.

Read the entire article here:

When Restorative Justice in Schools Works

How Pittsfield, New Hampshire’s Schools Are Practicing Restorative Justice

JIM VAIKNORAS/Staff photo Danvers Football vs Tewksbury

JIM VAIKNORAS/The Hechinger Report                                                                                                           The Pittsfield Middle High School English teacher Jenny Wellington, bottom left, observes a practice session of the Restorative Justice Committee.

“People were afraid this was going to be a ‘hippy-dippy-granola-nobody’s-going-to-get-in-trouble’ concept.” With this leading line, Emily Richmond of The Atlantic, opens her report on Pittsfield, New Hampshire’s schools’ successful implementation of restorative practices.

Richmond goes on to explain: “In traditional school-discipline programs, students face an escalating scale of punishments for infractions that can ultimately lead to expulsion. But there is now strong research that shows pulling students out of class as punishment can hurt their long-term academic prospects. What’s more, data shows that punishments are often unequal. Nationally, more black students are suspended than white students, for example.

As a result, alternative programs like restorative justice are gaining popularity in public schools from Maine to Oregon. Early adopters of the practice report dramatic declines in school-discipline problems, as well as improved climates on campuses and even gains in student achievement.”

Read the entire article here:

Begin with a Great Question!

Nearly every principal interviewing potential teachers can ask the question, “When you are teaching, and you are disrupted by a student, what do you do?” Teacher Jean Klasovsky from Farragut High School states that restorative practices can make a difference. She shares some concrete examples in her TEDx Talk linked here:

Our unique model combines the timeworn practice of virtue and restorative practices. Jean’s great message provides hope to so many teachers, students and parents struggling with discipline.

Knowing the best strategies for addressing classroom disruptions and other antisocial behaviors can be the key to holding relationships as the highest priority and also a key component to academic success. So back to answering to the question, “What do you do when a student disrupts your classroom?” It becomes an invitation to reflect on personal growth and build restorative practices onto that foundation. This is a winning response for any teacher!