Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guest Post on Restorative Justice

I can't be everywhere and am delighted a reader reached out to me to ask to write about Oakland Unified School District's Restorative Justice Program and the forum here on that subject on July 17th.

The writer is Annabel Quintero who served on the Seattle Council PTSA for the SW region and is now heading a group, "Fund Title 1 Schools" to advocate for children of color living in poverty who experience trauma.  She's also a member of the Superintendent's Parent Advisory Committe and the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition as well as being a graduate student at UW's College of Education in Leadership, Policy and K-12 Organizations.

Her thoughts:

On July 17, the Oakland Unified School District presented their work in Restorative Justice at Seattle City Hall.

Their work shows how Restorative Justice has helped them to dramatically reduce school suspension rates, particularly among African American students, who were being disproportionately suspended and expelled from school each year.

Restorative Justice, as it applies to schools, is a set of principles and practices used to build community and respond to student misconduct, with the goals of repairing harm and restoring relationships between those impacted. With Restorative Justice, administrators are trained to be "trauma informed" and to recognize that many children are experiencing very traumatic experiences and are victims of violence. For Oakland Schools, this awareness brought about a change in perspective in the way their district looked at justice, discipline and punishment.

Seattle School District faces similar disproportionate suspension rates among African American students and is looking at implementing Restorative Justice to address the issue.

According to supporters of Restorative Justice, having a restorative action program in a school increases student engagement, brings in a more positive social environment and teaches problem-solving, all of which contribute to better academic results.

In the meeting with Seattle City Council, there was overwhelming support to implement restorative justice in Seattle School District to help prevent the school-to-prison pipeline and to close the opportunity gap.

"Children of color need to be in the classroom to be instructed. Restorative justice can help accomplish that, and would truly provide equitable education for all students in the Seattle School District", said Annabel Quintero, Founder of Fund Title 1 Schools


mirmac1 said...

Thanks Annabel, I'll miss you on the SCPTSA board.

Of course I am in full accord with the need to replace ineffective and disproportionate discipline with practices that help our young people learn and grow from incidents that might lead to disciplinary action. Along with that is (re)training of administrators and educators that discipline and suspensions do not act to solve problems, particularly among the many disabled students subjected to excessive and inappropriate discipline.

I have real concerns when, once again, an outside party (in this case the City, whereas in the past it was CCER or the Alliance or etc). It's all well and good that Murray and friends push and cheerlead an important change in practice and policy. I've yet to hear where they are partners and funders of this effort. Cleveland's funding for (yet another) pilot of restorative justice, ran out this last spring. Another flash in the pan unless the City uses the money granted by its GENEROUS citizens to extend and expand this effort. Otherwise it's more of the same short-term cosmetic experimentation that outsiders love to fob off on our strapped district.

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating.

Mayor McGinn started a Restorative Justice group with the City. Mayor Murray dissolved the group in order to re-direct money for the pre-school focus.

From reading this it sounds like, one department that has a proven track record of results was scuttled for ed reform and an endless debate on how many pre-schools can SPS host.

One of the people that had worked for the City is now doing great work at Garfield.

- garfield mom

mirmac1 said...

new shiny things attract gadflies.

Carol Simmons said...

Restorative Justice techniques and strategies have always been used by good teachers. "Willful disobedience" as a reason for referrals to the office was only in the "eye of the beholder" and still continues to be just that.

There must be a change in policies and procedures that address institutional and structural racism. The Seattle School District is refusing to do this and has for over 40 years since the first Disproportionality Task Force made its recommendations.

Anonymous said...

Carol, I would add that when this concept trickles down to the buildings it winds up being a meeting following a kid's suspension during which the kid is supposed to fess up and say I'll do better next time. I witnessed this myself at WMS last year. When I asked if they'd ever heard of restorative justice they said this is what this meeting is. So let's separate the shiny objects from what the realities are in practice.