The San Francisco Unified School District Restorative Practices Team recently issued a newsletter looking at their experience changing school climate with restorative practices. Included are some statistics of the number of people they've trained along with staff testimonials. Included is a short interview with principal Paul Jacobsen at Rosa Parks Elementary School, which is currently in Year One implementation as a Restorative Practices Demonstration School.
What interested you in Restorative Practices? Basically, we were not satisfied with the results of a punitive approach to discipline. In most cases, consequences did not change behavior. Our Learning Support Professional and I attended an introductory workshop and thought this approach could be a good fit for our school.
Are Restorative Practices making a difference? We have seen a decrease in the number of office referrals and lost instructional time. The most promising news is the huge decline in student “melt-downs” when they are confronted about inappropriate behaviors. As students and staff become more familiar with the process, both parties are displaying greater patience and a calmer demeanor.
Do you still assign punitive consequences? Yes, when the behavior is especially harmful (i.e. causing serious physical injury) or repeated. Usually those consequences are less severe because the parties involved feel the harm has been repaired.
What is the biggest challenge? Implementation takes a substantial commitment of time. Like any effective professional development activity, everyone must be committed to putting the strategies into daily practice and working through the kinks. Collaboration is critical, so regular meetings for deeper learning, discussion, and problem solving can’t be short-changed.
What do parents think? Our parents are supporting a restorative approach. Since the school climate continues to improve, they also see a connection. Our parent outreach tries to follow a parallel track with implementation steps.
Do you have any recommendations for getting started? Keep in mind that the Restorative Practices concepts and principles have greater application than just confronting inappropriate behavior. They are rooted in relationship building and strengthening community and can (and should be) used in other contexts. They are equally effective in adult-adult interactions or as positive reinforcement.
Download the entire newsletter here.