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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Restorative Practices as an Alternative to School Discipline

From Jim Gerl's Special Education Law Blog

By Jim Gerl, Esq.
February 6, 2018

We have written here a number of times about the movement to replace traditional school discipline, which adversely affects students with disabilities, with restorative justice or restorative practices.
  • Here is a reference to the Department of Education blog concerning restorative justice as an alternative to discipline.

A report issued last week by the Education Commission of the States, A Policy Snapshot on Alternative School Discipline Strategies, examines the states use of alternatives to traditional discipline. The report shows that a number of states including Maryland, California, Michigan, Utah and Texas have specifically developed restorative practices alternatives.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

Exclusionary and punitive school discipline policies, such as suspensions and expulsions, allow educators to remove students from the classroom for poor behavior or misconduct. However, emerging research suggests that these practices also increase the likelihood that students repeat grades, are excessively absent from school, drop out entirely and/or get involved with the juvenile justice system.

National data show that historically underserved student groups — such as black students, Native students and students with disabilities— disproportionately experience punitive disciplinary measures in school. For example, while black students comprised 16 percent of public school enrollment, they represented 31 percent of students arrested in school and 27 percent of students referred to law enforcement in the 2011-12 school year.

In an attempt to mitigate these negative impacts, keep students in school and improve overall school climate, many states have opted to explore alternatives to punitive discipline — such as restorative practices and positive behavioral supports and interventions. In general, these practices aim to address the root causes of student misbehavior by building strong and healthy relationships with students and improving their engagement in the learning environment.

Recent state legislation related to the use of alternatives to punitive and exclusionary discipline in schools has primarily addressed three areas of policy:
  • Implementing professional development and training programs for teachers, administrators, school resource officers and other school personnel.
  • Establishing committees to study alternatives to punitive and exclusionary discipline
  • Reducing the use of punitive disciplinary measures by requiring the use of restorative practices, positive behavioral interventions, trauma-informed schools and other strategies in certain circumstances.

You can read the entire six page report here.

A separate report by the Education Commission of the States addresses state efforts to reform school expulsion and suspensions in general. You can read that report here.

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