While traditional or severe approaches to discipline such as suspension, expulsion and “zero tolerance” policies have persisted in many schools, studies show that these practices do not improve behavior or academics.
What’s worse, these studies also indicate that black, Latino and disabled students are disproportionately punished, resulting in an attendance crisis that prevents at-risk youth from catching up and graduating. Concerned educators and community members want to know: what can be done to improve discipline schoolwide?
The answer, for many, is restorative justice. In contrast to punishment and suspension, this approach focuses on the needs of victims and offenders, as well as the community as a whole. Using the group discussion model, including talking or healing circles, restorative justice seeks to repair broken bonds between students, or between students and teachers.
In addition to reforming discipline, restorative practices have been shown to reduce suspensions and improve attendance—a boon for school districts. The benefits for individuals are immeasurable as they learn how to resolve conflicts and improve their lives. Rather than being simply abandoned, at-risk students are given a chance to address the problems that caused them to misbehave in the first place.
Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools will host a three-day restorative practices implementation training starting March 7. Central office personnel, campus principals, attendance clerks, truancy officers and all other members of school staff are invited to participate in interactive training sessions to learn how to implement a restorative justice model in their schools. Learn more about or register for the training.