NEW YORK CITY — For years, many schools doubled down on zero-tolerance policies leading to extreme punishments when students misbehave, but research shows that type of discipline isn’t effective.
Restorative justice, an alternative to zero-tolerance policies, empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups, and it’s a growing practice at schools around the country.
Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said the restorative justice approach figures out the root cause of behavioral issues while keeping the student accountable for the harm done. In return, children get the support they need and are shown they can mess up without leaving a permanent scar.
The Alliance for Quality Education said this concept is so important because the history of zero-tolerance policies is most extreme with Black, LatinX and LGBTQ children, who are often punished more severely than their white peers for the same offense.
In New York City, one public high school is highlighting its success in helping students teach their peers to learn from their mistakes.
Circle Keepers is the after-school, student-led club at Harvest Collegiate High School in Union Square. When there’s an issue, a group of about a dozen students circle-up to discuss how to solve the problem.
The goal is to value all children in the school community and reduce suspensions while working within the school chancellor’s discipline code — a step in the right direction for a more equitable education.
About 500 middle and high schools have DOE restorative justice programs, and every elementary school will have social-emotional learning programs by the end of next year, according to the department.