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.
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