Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 44

An obstacle to spreading the practices more broadly is that we don’t yet have a large cadre of practitioners who are trained to do this work in schools. Sometimes the people who are trained in Restorative Justice cannot make the transition to the school setting and its goals. We are really focusing on creating capacity builders, but we need more funding to hire individuals who can be effectively trained as school-site coaches. What differences did you see after Restorative Practices began to take root at Richmond High? Well, in addition to the sharp decrease in suspensions (53%), the change in overall school climate was palpable and observable. The year prior, you would not have wanted to walk through the halls during a class change. Students were jostling, bumping and running into each other and administrators were having a hard time clearing the halls. If you go to the school now, when class is in session, the halls are empty. The fights went down because the students had learned about Restorative Practices, participated and had begun to address issues among themselves and/or had multiple connections with adults who they actually trusted. Also, they own this now, so when I go to a meeting they are talking about all of the additional things that they are doing and beginning that we aren’t leading. They are designing them and deciding to move the ball forward. So, now that you know what you know about how these practices can really take root at a schoolsite, what exactly do you think is needed to make it work and how much does it cost? Well, we estimate the cost per year as $65,000 and think that it takes either two or three years for full implementation. That cost covers training expenses and three days of coaching support per week. The coaches who work with the schools need to be very clear that their role is capacity builder and not service provider. If they just do the circles for the school, it will never take root. 42 How we can fix school discipline Can you give an example of how a “circle” works in the discipline context? Well, we just began the training process at a new high school. In the second skills-based training, we asked them to provide us a scenario that could be used to actually address harm. They discussed that in the first week of school a fight had broken out. A young woman thought a young man was harassing her cousin. They may have pushed each other. A bunch of other freshman jump in. Then, a few seniors walking by thought that one of the young women was being hurt, so they jumped in to protect her. The Assistant Principal suspended everyone for 5 days. So, our first circle was a reintegration to the school community circle with all of the students. The AP and staff present were somewhat surprised at how well the circle worked within a relatively short period of time; the AP noted after the fact and upon reflection that he had suspended the seniors for doing something that he might ask his own boys to do. Out of this, the group decided that they need to begin circle practice around manhood and responsibility and what it meant in the community. Do you have any other suggestions for how we spread these practices more broadly? Well, I think it would be extraordinary if these trainings and trainings around other alternative structures, like SWPBIS which is aligned with and works with Restorative Practices, can be part of the school administrator and teacher training process. If you cross-train school administrators, then we will see these practices in places across the state much more quickly. Feel free to contact me: Millie Burns Restorative Justice Cons ultant