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The Need for Restorative Practices in Schools

STARS Logo with taglineNow that you have an idea of the field of Restorative Practices (if you missed last week’s post, before you continue reading, check it out first), we can discuss why it is important for schools to start looking at different disciplinary practices and switch to healthier methodologies to repair relationships.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) conducted a Civil Rights Data Collection to determine whether students of certain racial or ethnic groups were disciplined differently than their peers. The results from the study showed students of racial minorities were disciplined more than their peers. In fact, one of the examples the study cites states, “African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended” (OCR).

The Department did acknowledge that there may be a range of factors that explain the disparities in student discipline rates but the data suggested the extensive racial disparities “[were] not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color” (OCR).

The data provided enough evidence to show some schools “may be engaging in racial discrimination that violates the Federal civil rights laws” (OCR). So, what does this mean? The data collected supports the need for schools to look for alternative methods to handle discipline in the education system. Additionally, the study showed the amount of instructional time lost due to suspensions or expulsion was high. This increased use of in-school and out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, or referrals to law enforcement has created the potential for long-term negative outcomes such as avoiding school, disengagement in education, decreased academic achievement, increased behavior problems, increased likelihood of dropping out, substance abuse, and involvement with the juvenile justice system (OCR).

So what can schools do? 

The OCR suggests the first step is to create an environment that has fair and equitable discipline policies and an environment where students feel safe and welcome. To do this, teachers and administrators need to have the tools and training to prevent and address conflicts along with an environment that supports positive student behavior. This is where Restorative Practices comes in, restorative practices offers a wide range of options to help prevent and address misconduct while promoting a safe environment without using harsh discipline policies that are discriminatory or inappropriate. Check out this helpful checklist provided by the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights for a more in-depth look at how to improve school climate and discipline policies and practices.The study conducted by the OCR demonstrates why it is so important for schools to reevaluate their current disciplinary practices and policies and adapt to using more successful methodologies like restorative practices.

Join us next week to learn about how STARS is helping implement restorative practices in Middle Tennessee.


International Institute for Restorative Practices

U.S Department of Education “Join ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter” 

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.