Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 33

HIGHLIGHT: RJOY AND OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT FANIA DAVIS, RESTORATIVE JUSTICE FOR OAKLAND YOUTH (RJOY), CO-FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Why was Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) formed and how did RJOY bring Restorative Justice into Oakland schools? We created RJOY because we wanted to shift the culture in Oakland away from knee-jerk punitive responses to youthful wrongdoing that replicate harm instead of healing it. From the beginning, we had a triple focus: sow the seeds of Restorative Justice (RJ) in our schools, communities, and juvenile justice system. Former Oakland City Council member Nancy Nadel, Oakland community activist Aeeshah Clottey, and I founded RJOY in 2005. That same year we gave a RJ training. One of the attendees was a counselor at Cole Middle School (Cole). She was taken with RJ. On a volunteer basis, she conducted some circles at Cole Middle, which quickly resulted in good outcomes such as elimination of violence and reduced suspensions and expulsions. Nancy was impressed by this data. With her assistance, RJOY applied for and received a Measure Y grant to launch pilot a program at Cole in 2007. Measure Y provides funding in Oakland for violence prevention programs for high-risk youth and young adults. Measure Y continues to fund our work in two West Oakland schools today. What are the goals of RJ in a school? When implemented as a whole school approach, the goal is to effect a culture shift where all members of the school community respond to conflict in healing instead of punitive ways. Instead of punishing and excluding the young person who breaks school rules or causes harm, RJ seeks to involve all affected persons in a shared process to address needs, fulfill obligations, and repair the harm that was caused. The essence of the work is relationship building and community building. So we do a lot of proactive work meant to create a strong, healthy, and nurturing school community where students and teachers can thrive. Of course, to be successful, family and community engagement is an important piece. What schools must understand is that RJ is not a program for their “bad” kids; RJ is for the entire school and community. RJ is for the teachers, the site administrators, the school security officers, the students and their families because everyone contributes to the climate inside the school and student behavior management. If we do an excellent job, eventually the school will no longer need RJOY to be present in the school because the members of the school community themselves are carrying the work forward. The culture shift that is the goal of whole school RJ is expressed in a number of ways. For instance at Bunche High School, after two and one-half years of RJ, the school went from being one where fights and suspensions were commonplace to one where violence has been eliminated and suspensions have been nearly eliminated. Racial disparity in discipline has also been eradicated. Neither a single individual nor a single program could ever be the driver of these outcomes. There are no longer fights at this school because the whole school community is actively engaged and united. How did you convince the administration at Cole Middle and other schools to allow RJOY to come into the schools? It’s all about relationship-building, consistently doing 31