Restorative Justice discipline policy for charter schools

Last year, NYC School Chancellor Carmen Farina announced that the Department of Education will move towards a d restorative justice discipline policy for New York City Public Schools. This shift in discipline policy would eliminate or reduce more traditional punitive practices like suspension currently adopted by many schools to a restorative justice model that would employ techniques such as peer mediation, student justice panels, and “give back” resolutions to change student behavior. In January 2015, the Department of Education’s Officer of Safety and Youth Development began a pilot initiative in a few public schools to implement restorative justice discipline practice that would “create space to support a positive school environment.”

For many Charter Schools, a restorative justice model for addressing and dealing with conflicts has been a common practice. The discipline policy of the school is determined by the governing body (“Board of Trustees” ) of the school and outlined in personnel manual that should be fully accessible to all parents. However, the decision to suspend student by Charter School leadership follow the guidelines outlined by the Department of Education.

For Charter School parents , it is important that they are aware of the discipline policy at their school. If the school utilizes a restorative justice model, what does that mean and how is it implemented and enforced? Parents should not assume that a restorative justice model means “an end of student suspensions.” For Charter School Leadership, there needs to be more discussion on how this shift in DOE policy will impact on our schools.

What is a Restorative Justice?

The Restorative Justice theory emphasizes the value of accountability. In essence, all students and staff in a school are accountable to each other and to protect their learning environment. When conflict arises, there is a process for students and teachers to address the behavior through peer mediation or student justice panels that end with resolutions that are meant to repair relationships and school community such as writing an apology or helping a teacher. It does not eliminate the option for suspension but allows the options of discipline to be situational and allow for a “positive” reintegration into the school community.

Admittedly, there are many skeptics in the Charter School world to the new emphasis of a restorative justice discipline model . In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO, denounced the de Blasio administration for the “restorative conflict resolution” claiming that it would make schools less safe. Community Charter Schools effectively implementing a restorative justice model in their school community should be vigilant in telling their story.

Oma Holloway, Family and Community Coordinator

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