Several Pennsylvania high schools have had â€œremarkable success with restorative practices,â€ Lapp said. There are various models, but they often involve mediation, with an opportunity for the victim â€œto communicate to the offender why something was painful or hurtful, and an opportunity for the offender to figure out future ways to handle problems differently.â€
The Education Law Center is also using the Interbranch Commission report in a fight to alter state Senate Bill 56, which is designed to make the school safety reports more uniform.
The state has compiled the safety data annually for more than a decade, but the weakness has always been that the information is self-reported by the schools. Different administrators may report the same type of incident under different categories â€“ one personâ€™s harassment may be another personâ€™s assault. The state tightened the reporting procedures in 2005, but problems continued.
Lapp said SB 56 attempts to fix the problem by involving police more. â€œWhen it first came out it in 2009, it basically required schools to call them for anything that could remotely be considered a crime,â€ he said.
The bill has been â€œfavorably amended,â€ but there is still a high risk administrators will simply opt to call police whenever they are unsure an incident matches the requirements, Lapp said. â€œA principal may not know the difference between aggravated assault and simple assault.
â€œWe think itâ€™s important that the data be accurately collected, but police donâ€™t seem to be a necessary part of that, especially for incidents not of a violent or overly serious nature,â€ Lapp said.
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