In Washington State and across the Nation schools have recognized the ineffective intervention (suspensions) that creates greater harm (dropping out, juvenile detention). Here at home in a Seattle Times article we have an incredible example of what can be accomplished with strong leadership and teachers who understand the problem. These teachers and school leaders are not standing by and folding their arm declaring “well I know it doesn’t work, but what else is there?” In a similar New York Times article they highlight numerous schools across the Nation. Some using Restorative Justice, others addressing school climate, and still others finding creative way to create a safe and inviting school environment. Baltimore, San Francisco, Oakland, LA, our own very diverse areas in the Puget Sound have all made strides to reduce overall suspensions and in-particular disproportionality in discipline. The Federal Government has made investigation after investigation and recently made school discipline recommendations.
Now what? … Is Restorative Justice the answer? Well not entirely…
I truly believe in the transformative nature of Restorative Justice. I believe it can remake relationships that have been damaged and are hanging on by a thread. But what it takes to work and work well is a committed system wide approach. No longer can schools receive a hodgepodge of programs. We can’t try seven different programs and hope for the best. Avid, in schools suspension, drug counseling, cultural competency, re-engagement programs, youth leadership, and other programs all need to be well organized and coordinated under the same Restorative banner. Relationship first,everything else will fall into place.