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Merced County high schools see the benefits of restorative justice discipline model

Oct 10, 2014

from the article by Ana B. Ibarra in the Merced Sun Star:

High school officials in Merced County are taking a new approach at improving discipline policies on campuses, and that approach is showing a significant improvement in student participation and wellness, according to a new report.

Restorative justice policies, which focus on non-adversarial and dialogue-based decisionmaking, are proving to be more effective than zero-tolerance practices, school officials said during a presentation last week.

According to the Health Impact Assessment report, the restorative justice method can reduce school suspensions by 20 percent to 40 percent in Merced. If it were to be adopted countywide and implemented properly, researchers estimate that 3,400 fewer students would be suspended.

Suspensions in the county totaled 8,500 in the 2012-13 school year....

A panel of students who have participated in restorative justice training shared their thoughts on the new model during Tuesday’s presentation.

Esaiah Villalobos, a senior at Le Grand High School, said that through restorative practice he has learned that fighting isn't always the answer and that words can be more effective in getting a point across.

“I like that we get to talk about our problems and actually be heard,” Villalobos said. “In a normal school, we would get kicked out of class, but here we get to talk it out.”

Villalobos sees the positive impact conflict-resolution methods are having among his peers. “I've seen students with a beef in first period shake hands by the end of the day … so you do see a difference,” he added....

Read the whole article.

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