Itâ€™s a huge shift from the traditional way discipline has worked at Skyline: you cut class, you go to detention; you get into a fight, you get suspended.
But now cutting class might not lead to detention. Now theyâ€™re trying to understand why youâ€™d cut class in the first place. And, they want you to help decide what the consequences should be.
After lunch ends, a security guard is after some of the stragglers. If they donâ€™t get moving, theyâ€™re going to be late for fifth period class. There are a total of six security guards at Skyline. Sam Tran is one of them.
â€œI would say I have a good relationship with about 98 percent of the kids up on the campus,â€ says Tran. He says heâ€™s here to â€œmake sure everybodyâ€™s safe, everybodys happy, kids are doing what theyâ€™re supposed to do Iâ€™ll educate them and hopefully theyâ€™ll walk the right path and do the right thing.â€
Sonia Black hopes to incorporate the guards into this new restorative justice approach.
â€œBecause they have a lot of power on this campus and a lot of the kids look at them in a positive way,â€ Black explains. â€œSo instead of them having to bring two kids up here who got into a verbal fight, maybe they could have a conversation right there with these two kids.â€
But change comes gradually and many students arenâ€™t aware of the new philosophy. A lot of them say discipline seems arbitrary: security is hard on students who are tardy, but then they let some pretty egregious things go.
â€œLike the other day I have this friend who was selling and smoking weed in front of the security guard and he didnâ€™t do nothing,â€ says one student, Carolina, who didnâ€™t want to give her last name. â€œHe was just, some to like avoid the fatigue of taking them to the office doing all the paperwork and everything they just ignore it just to like let it go so they wonâ€™t have to do all that paperwork and stuff.â€
Another student, Paola, says she feels like security singles her out: â€œI think my race, and the way I dress. Like I always have people come up to me like, â€˜Oh are you a BB?â€™ Like a gang, the Border Brothers.â€
But whatâ€™s most frustrating to these students is the punishments. Students say they get sent home from school for minor infractions, which just gets them farther behind in their work. Alex, who is a sophomore, says thatâ€™s counter productive. Heâ€™d rather see school officials take a different approach, like â€œgive him the opportunity, â€˜cause if they go home theyâ€™re not really gonna do anything but miss days and not learn.â€
Restorative justice is only in its first year at Skyline and already you can see some progress. But this approach to discipline is time consuming and not everyone on campus is on board with it.
â€œItâ€™s very hard, because people have different priorities and different ways of approaching whatever the problems are on our campus,â€ says Sonia Black.
Black says changing the culture of a school can be difficult, especially when there are nearly 2,000 students to account for. â€œMaybe there has to be a consequence but lets figure out the root of the problem is first.â€
Restorative justice is starting to be used in public schools around the country. Oakland Unified is one of the first school districts to actually implement it. And after the first year of trying it at Skyline, thereâ€™s still a lot more work to be done.
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