Here are two clippings this week relevant to current trends of schools using restorative justice to move away from zero tolerance policies and address the disproportionate punishing of minority students. First from Denver, Colorado, then from California:
There were 185 expulsions in 2009-2010 compared to 63 last year, said John Simmons, executive director of student services for the district. Meanwhile, the number of out-of-school suspensions has declined in that same period from 9,558 to 7,525 last year.
Fifty-five percent of students suspended from school last year were Hispanic, which is close to the 58 percent of Hispanic students who attend school in the district.
The big gap is between white and black students. White students make up 20 percent of DPS students but only 8 percent of those suspended. Conversely, black students make up only 15 percent of district students but comprised 32 percent of those who faced out-of-school suspensions last year.
The ratios for expulsions are similar. White students make up 10 percent of the pool, black students represent 30 percent and Hispanic students 56 percent.
Eldridge Greer, manager of psychological services in the district, said DPS is undergoing a philosophical shift in terms of how it handles discipline. Research and personal experience has shown that booting students out of school simply doesn’t change student behavior.
Instead, the district is embracing restorative justice programs and other techniques to resolve conflicts and to educate students about the impact of his or her actions and work with the student to make things right.
Gov. Jerry Brown backed statewide efforts to reduce the suspension and expulsion rates in schools, signing two bills Friday that increase the use of alternative methods to discipline students.
AB1729 requires schools to suspend or expel students only after other efforts have been made to correct the behavior, including counseling, parent conferences, restorative justice techniques and after-school programs. This does not apply to zero-tolerance offenses - like bringing a gun or knife to school.
AB2537 clarifies that bringing over-the-counter medications or imitation firearms to school are not zero-tolerance offenses and therefore do not automatically lead to a recommendation for expulsion as is the case with real firearms or controlled substances.
The governor vetoed a more controversial third measure that would have banned principals and other administrators from suspending students for misbehavior classified as willful defiance.