Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 36

What does Restorative Justice look like at the district level? David Yusem, OUSD Restorative Justice Program Manager Our overarching goal is to create an environment where suspensions and expulsions are reduced and students graduate. Our targeted goal, under the Voluntary Resolution Plan, is to eliminate racially disproportionate discipline of our AfricanAmerican students. In order to achieve these goals, we are working together to implement a variety of alternatives, including RJ. Since RJ is a philosophy, and not a program, it looks different at different schools. Currently, there are 27 total in various stages of RJ implementation. Using Oakland Fund for Children and Youth funding from the City of Oakland, we have placed peer RJ coordinators at 8 middle schools. Some of those people also act as whole school RJ Coordinators. However, at some of our schools, RJ coordinators are often a counselor or support person that also is tasked with supporting the school in implementing RJ. Because retributive punishment is ingrained in the fabric of our society, RJ is a large culture shift. When people think of consequences, they usually think of punishment and it is hard for them to get past the perception that RJ is soft. In fact, it is much harder for a student to be accountable for something he or she has done and seek to repair the harm. It is harder to sit with the harmed student or school community member and acknowledge that you harmed that person. It also takes time to build community, but, of course, it is time well-spent. Regularly sitting in circle affords us the opportunity to get to the root of unwanted behavior. Certain behaviors are actually coping mechanisms for trauma. So a lot of behavior seen as “willful defiance” is actually an attempt to deal with external issues. Harmed people harm other people. If we address the root of the behavior, then we can stop the cycle of harm. I am also currently collaborating with our other initiatives, African-American Male Achievement and social emotional learning units. RJ also works very well with the Social Emotional Learning(SEL) 34 How we can fix school discipline approach. In an RJ circle, students and adults are passively exercising and honing SEL skills – such as empathy, decision making, social awareness and self-regulation. As students master these skills, they can sit in a circle effectively and discuss curriculumspecific topics and SEL topics, such as “What does it mean to be a good friend?” In OUSD, RJ is proving to be very effective with engaging students, reducing violent incidents, suspensions and expulsions, and creating a positive school climate overall. We have students asking for circles instead of fighting with each other. They understand that RJ is not a top down punitive model and their voices will be heard. However, we have a long way to go too. This work is leading to a districtwide culture shift, which is going to take many years, starts and stops, and successes and failures. Crunching the Numbers: Does it Work? RJ implementation in OUSD schools has helped to narrow the gap in discipline between AfricanAmerican and white students. From 2011 to 2014, OUSD schools using RJ decreased the differences in suspension rates for African-American and white students from a 15% difference to a 10% difference, while at a similar non-RJ schools in the district, the gap remained the same. RJ has also had significant, positive impacts on student achievement and engagement in Oakland. From 2010-2013, high school dropout rates at RJ high schools in the district decreased by 56%, while non-RJ high schools had a 17% decline. Four-year graduation rates in RJ schools increased by about 60% in the three years after the program was started, compared to 7% for non-RJ schools. The percent of ninth graders who are proficient readers increased by 128% at RJ high schools, compared to 11% in non-RJ high schools.”1 Feel free to contact us: Oakland Unified School District David Yusem, Program Manager 1 Oakland Unified School District,”Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools: Implementation and Impacts” (2015), available at www.ousd.