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In school discipline, intervention may work better than punishment

Feb 04, 2015

from the article by Claudia Rowe in the Seattle Times:

Instead of sending the three smokers home with a litany of their failings, Levine sat face to face with each, explaining what it felt like to have his trust violated. He read them testimony from other teachers, who spoke of their belief in the young women — how they had a chance to go to college, build a career, leave their difficult family lives behind.

By the end of her hour-long conference, 18-year-old Monae Trevino was weeping.

Afterward, she signed a contract setting out ways to make amends: by leading three student discussions on questions surrounding drug use, each of which meant significant research; reading two works of college-level literature and writing a related essay.

“It’s a lot harder than a regular suspension,” said Trevino, who had been kicked off campus multiple times at other, more conventional schools. “You can’t run from anything, and to have people talking good about you, telling you they’re truly disappointed — it hurts. It was kind of overwhelming, actually.”

Trevino’s conference was part of a practice known as restorative justice, and while rare in the Puget Sound region, the approach has been embraced elsewhere — not just at small schools like Big Picture in Burien, but across entire urban districts — as awareness grows that suspending kids often does more harm than good.

New research correlates typical zero-tolerance punishment with lower academic outcomes overall, even for kids who never step out of line. Further, the vast majority of suspensions are leveled against students of color, who come back to class more behind and less engaged than ever.

Read the whole article.

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