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School hopes talking it out keeps kids from dropping out

Jun 25, 2013

from the article by Jennifer Guerra on Capital Public Radio:

Out-of-school suspensions are on the rise across the country, a troubling statistic when you consider being suspended just once ups a student's chances of dropping out entirely. That's why many districts are hoping to keep kids in school by trying an alternative to suspension.

The "conflict resolution room" at Ypsilanti High School in Michigan is quiet and sparse — just a small couch, some chairs and a plant. For decoration there are a few homemade posters with drawings of shooting stars and signs with slogans like "Together we can!" and "Think before you speak."

It's where students go when they're on the verge of being suspended.

...Peer mediation is used as a prevention tactic to stop conflicts before they get too serious. But if a fight is about to break out or already has, that's when Margaret Rohr, who runs the conflict resolution room, uses "restorative justice."

"Restorative practices basically establish a complete paradigm shift from traditional discipline," Rohr says.

With traditional discipline, the focus is on rules and punishment: Break rule X, get punishment Y. With restorative justice, Rohr explains, the focus is on harm done and relationships.

For instance, if a student starts a fight in the hall — normally grounds for suspension — Rohr will round up everyone who was harmed by the fight and have them participate in a restorative circle. The student who caused the harm has to listen as one-by-one he hears how his actions impacted those around him.

...At Ypsilanti High School, suspensions have decreased by about 10 percent since it started using restorative justice last fall.

Read the full article.

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