While prepping this post, I hear a call on the police scanner to come to Trewyn School. A five (5) year old was slammed into a locker and the older sibling was assaulted. The mother called the police. Should this issue be handled within the school, or should the parent press assault charges?
Issues of discipline in our school have teachers and many in the community at their wits end. We want children to just behave already and fall in line. Regardless of how much we want that and secretly wish these children will just go away to a place made just for them, we realize that it's really not that simple.Restorative JusticeRestorative justice is a practice characterized by bringing together administrators, educators, advocates, school resource officers, parents and students with a history of truancy for a series of goal-oriented meetings in order to counsel towards problem solving in the area of daily and class based attendance, or other behavioral or academic issues at hand. Typically, a restorative justice model will maintain conducting three to five meetings of the necessary personnel to bring the student at fault to understand how his/her absence is affecting his/her potential. The meetings will often be centered on discussion of offenses and consequences, which will lead to the creation of a contract between students, parents and educators, promising change in a student’s attendance rates. The restorative justice model is emerging as one of the most dynamic and effective ways to address truancy without the use of suspension or court order. Source
Recently people commenting on the blog have begun to talk about issues of restorative justice. After taking a look at an article recommended in comments by Jon (Sharon Crews' arch nemesis), I realized that I have seen some aspects of restorative justice in use. However, I don't feel like it was effective, because school administrators did not name the process, nor did they follow through on it. If there are no efforts to get students, families and the community to buy in, piecemeal applications will not work.
The expectation of zero tolerance makes the restorative justice process a complete paradigm shift for schools and it takes time. Unfortunately, some children enjoy the drama and attention they get when misbehaving and as a result, bad behaviors can be slow to change. A district's suspension rates may begin to go down, but in the meantime, the children who are prepared and want to learn are losing valuable time. Parents who may have options are giving up and looking for safe havens. However, if given time and resources, with buy in from students, parents and community members, I believe restorative justice to be worth the efforts.