“It’s a lot harder than a regular suspension,” said Trevino, who had been kicked off campus multiple times at other, more conventional schools. “You can’t run from anything, and to have people talking good about you, telling you they’re truly disappointed — it hurts. It was kind of overwhelming, actually.”

Trevino’s conference was part of a practice known as restorative justice, and while rare in the Puget Sound region, the approach has been embraced elsewhere — not just at small schools like Big Picture in Burien, but across entire urban districts — as awareness grows that suspending kids often does more harm than good.

New research correlates typical zero-tolerance punishment with lower academic outcomes overall, even for kids who never step out of line. Further, the vast majority of suspensions are leveled against students of color, who come back to class more behind and less engaged than ever.

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