Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 46

human relations concepts and how discipline and separation impact education and how we could create change on campus and in our families. Since Rob Howard came here and since we’ve started working with RJ, students have started to really know each other on a deeper level and as people. People were separated into their own cliques before. Also, students are now controlling their behavior and actions and being held responsible for fixing conflicts. In fact, one of the students that we are working with this year implemented RJ into her home life and uses it at her house to resolve conflicts. Personally, through working with RJ at Reid, I have become a better person. I’m now a youth mentor and a policy advocate for RJ in all schools. CCEJ is a non-profit organization that has been implementing human relations programming in Los Angeles County for 50 years. These programs primarily involve engaging youth and adults in dialogue around identity, oppression, bias, bigotry, and other community issues. Primarily, CCEJ works with communities of color. How did CCEJ begin coordinating Restorative Justice in schools? Former Restorative Justice Program Specialist Alicia Virani: Implementing and advocating for Restorative Justice (RJ) in schools was a natural evolution and a perfect fit for CCEJ because of our focus on human relations. We had been hearing stories of outrageous and unfair disciplinary policies used against students of color in the middle and high schools where we worked throughout Los Angeles County. These practices led students to be pushed out of school and, often, into the juvenile justice system. Additionally, we observed the fracturing of different school communities that gave rise to a climate of conflict and harm. We believe that RJ works as a direct intervention into the school-to-prison pipeline and the punitive discipline practices that disproportionately target students of color. RJ is about shifting the way we think about school climate, relationships, and harm and wrong-doing. Our staff, including myself and Rob Howard, a CCEJ RJ coordinator, received RJ training at Rita Alfred’s Restorative Justice Training Institute. Ms. Alfred also supplied the training for our youth volunteers. 44 How we can fix school discipline During the 2012-2013 school year, our first year of RJ implementation, we worked with two schools: Roosevelt High School and Reid High School. One principal at Roosevelt Senior High School, in Boyle Heights, brought us on and was really excited about implementing RJ because the school had been the target of a lot of truancy ticketing and the community had begun organizing about what to do to address the issues there. We also started working at Reid High Schoo l in Long Beach. At Roosevelt, we reduced suspensions by 60%. During this 2013-2014 school year, we expanded our work to four additional schools – Markham Middle School, Gompers Middle School, and Augustus Hawkins High School. What are the first steps that CCEJ takes when beginning to implement RJ at a specific school site? Virani: Typically, we begin with 12 hours, which span over two days, of RJ training for all school staff. We start with doing community building circles. Most of our training is experiential, we want school staff to frequently sit in circle with each other, conduct professional development in circle and have staff meetings in circle as well. That is what helps the paradigm and culture shift of the school. Part of our professional development also includes training on self-reflection about harming and being harmed, anti-bias, anti-racism, and the school-to-prison pipeline. We are also working with schools that have only limited amounts of time to receive training but allow us to coordinate RJ and community building circles on a full-time basis. In a few other schools where we are working, we have trained and assisted with establishing an RJ taskforce that meets monthly and consists of parents, teachers, students and administrative staff. What do you think a school needs to implement RJ at their site? What advice do you have for other schools who are interested in implementing RJ at their sites? Virani: This varies because RJ looks different at different schools of different sizes with various school climate issues. We believe that it is fundamental to have a person at the school-site who is dedicated as the Restorative Justice Coordinator. This does not need to be a new staff person, but it is important that