Despite budget crisis, Oakland school board approves district-wide restorative justice initiative
from Lillian R.Mongeau's article in OaklandNorth.net:
In other business, the board voted Wednesday night to implement a district-wide “Restorative Justice” initiative....
Restorative Justice focuses on “acknowledging that crime causes injury to people and communities, it insists that justice repair those injuries and that the parties be permitted to participate in that process,” according to the Prison Fellowship International’s Restorative Justice Online web site. In schools, this takes the form of training teachers and students to practice active communication, face-to-face reconciliation and non-punitive actions to address misconduct.
Nikita Mitchell, 16,is a junior at Castlemont High where her group, Youth Together, has been trained in restorative justice practices. She said that a key part of the program is better communication. A teacher who notices a student is upset or acting out, for instance, can enter the information into a computer system that the “teacher of record” for the restorative justice program will check daily. That teacher will then refer a trained student to have a one-on-one meeting with the upset student to talk about the problem and work on solutions like apologies, mediation, or “peacemaking circles,” in which members of the community share their feelings and come to a consensus about how to move past inappropriate actions.
“This district has tried many strategies to decrease violence and truancy like imposing closed campuses and … the increase of security and surveillance although there is already rising tensions between youth and police. These strategies don’t identify and address the pain and trauma that my peers go through. However, finally, this district is thinking of a strategy that addresses and heals the root cause of youth violence,” Mitchell told the board.
Student board member Eric Adams added that even with such a tight budget the board should implement the program. Since most of the work is done by students and the district’s already-trained teachers, he said, “it costs zero dollars and very zero cents.”
Superintendent Smith also supported implementing the new program, saying that he had seen it implemented in San Francisco schools during his tenure there and that though it may seem like “another touchy-feely San Francisco thing” it was highly successful at reducing violence and tension in school communities.
The motion passed unanimously.
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