Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 48

students, between students and teachers and between staff members. We use the peer court process for students returning from suspension or students who could receive discretionary suspensions. This is a student-led process, and adults don’t speak unless they are asked to. A student who has committed an offense sits in front of a panel of his or her peers and the student’s advocate, an assistant principal, sits next to the student. The panel – consisting of about 5-7 students chosen from a pool of about 40 trained students - asks the student restorative questions, as well as other questions to get a full picture of what the student is experiencing both in and out of school. After gaining all the information, the panel deliberates to determine the restorative “sentence” and create a restorative contract that the student must follow to divert his or her suspensions. Some restorative sentences include anger management classes, tutoring, getting drug counseling, cleaning up the mess he or she made, or writing an apology letter and delivering it. Most students complete their restorative contract, and when they do, the suspension is expunged from their record. We’ve had students who asked to continue their contract; for instance, one student thought that his anger management classes were really helping and he wanted to continue them. What challenges have you encountered in the process of changing the discipline practices at Davidson? contract don’t want their kid to have to stand up in front of the whole class and apologize because it will be embarrassing. In order to overcome these challenges, we incorporated as many community members and teachers in the process of finding alternatives to improve the school. These people were instrumental in getting their peers on board. No one listens to the administrator; they convince each other. How much does it cost to implement these alternatives and how do you pay for them? MacLean: The only real costs are for professional development and personnel. I use Title I funding. Since Karen was already trained in restorative practices, she trained the staff for free but I paid for the extra time that she spends coordinating restorative practices and the peer court program. Junker: I sometimes provide consultation and training to other schools to help them begin to implement restorative practices. Training can be very inexpensive; an entire school can be trained for a few thousand dollars. The issue is finding one or a group of staff members who would be willing to coordinate and continue the restorative practices and circles. There are many possibilities. Since implementing restorative practices, peer courts and the No Bully program, how is the climate at Davidson? Junker: There was pushback from teachers, who were used to the old way of doing things and thought that restorative practices and peer court would let students get away with bad behavior. But after they saw that fulfilling a restorative contract did not just give students an easy way out and helped the student behave better and deal with the reasons for his/her behavior, they were much more willing to buy-in. Junker: There is a lot of pride here now. Attendance is really high and disciplinary actions are way down. Suspensions have been reduced by 80% and our API scores increased by 85 points and across all subgroups. Enrollment has gone up (by more than 100 students during 2010-2012). Kids want to come to school because they feel good and safe here. They feel respected because they also know that when they are having trouble with a teacher or another student they can call a circle too. MacLean: It’s a challenge convincing everyone, including parents and teachers, that doing things this way, the restorative way, is the better way. There seems to be a mindset among the public that punishment works. If, after an incident, students weren’t absent for a day or two or three, parents of the “wronged” student weren’t happy. Additionally, parents of a student who is given a restorative Teachers are participating much more in the extracurricular lives of students. Teachers are providing after school tutoring, teachers are giving more of themselves. Teachers and administrators are working together better because they all feel included and are part of all processes. In the past some teachers were so frustrated that they would leave classrooms or send many students out on 46 How we can fix school discipline