Saturday, November 30, 2013

A New York Times article

The New York Times, 11/13/13 – Emerging research links childhood trauma to students’ attendance, behavior, academics, and health, and underscores the counterproductive effects of punitive school discipline approaches.

Monday, November 25, 2013

RJ article in Christian Science Monitor

Christian Science Monitor

Is 'zero tolerance' is bad for education?
Zero-tolerance policies have become commonplace in American schools, however some, including the Pennsylvania ACLU, say that schools are taking zero tolerance too far.

By James Norton, Contributing blogger / November 15, 2013

Critics of 'zero tolerance' say the policy leaves little room for alternative conflict resolution, such as restorative justice. Here, several educators and administrators participate in a Restorative Justice training session in Oakland, Calif., March 14.

Does a "zero-tolerance" approach to school discipline keep students safer or disrupt the educational process? The answer is, of course, complicated, but a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania [PDF of report here] presents an argument that the approach has sprawled greatly from its original anti-gun goals and that the impact has largely been to push students out of the classroom.

James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger.

Zero tolerance was introduced in Pennsylvania in the 1990s, and, based on a 1995 state law, it required the expulsion of students found possessing a (broadly defined) "weapon."

But as the study goes on to note:

In Pennsylvania, as around the nation, zero tolerance took on a life of its own. Particularly over the last 15 years, it infected the culture of schools so that an even broader range of behaviors and conflicts, like school uniform violations or talking back to adults, became the basis for removal from school, even when removal was not required by law."

Sacrificed on the altar of order in schools: things like due process, conflict resolution, and the exploration of solutions to prevent future conflicts. And alternative discipline systems that focus on principles like restorative justice are sidelined as well; there's no opportunity to work through a collaborative process when mandatory suspensions are the default answer to many or most problems.

An Education Week story about the report illuminated the sheer number of suspensions in the system:

Pennsylvania school leaders issued an average of 10.1 suspensions for every 100 students during the 2011-2012 school year, the report says. The York City School District, which had the highest suspension rate in the state that year, issued 91 suspensions for every 100 students, the report says. Some students may have been suspended multiple times.

Under zero-tolerance policies, students in various states have faced suspension or expulsion for offenses ranging from playing with airsoft guns in their own yards, crafting a gun shape from a Pop Tart, and making gun hand gestures.

In aggregate, the policies are a parallel to the criminal justice system and its 1990s/early '00s rush toward mandatory minimum sentences. Both zero tolerance and mandatory minimums take discretion away from the authorities on hand to enforce rules, and both hand down sometimes draconian sentences that inflict harm far out of proportion to the offense in question, largely to satisfy a broad public desire to "get tough" on a specific problem.

While there's no getting around the fact that there is a guns-in-schools problem in America and a discipline-in-schools problem in many districts, evidence suggests that a broad-brush zero-tolerance approach to anything often causes more problems than it resolves; treating students like prisoners may do more to harm education than it does to save it. In fact, treating prisoners like prisoners are currently treated may cause more problems than it solves, but that's another series of studies entirely.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The School Culture Must Be Changed to End the School-to-Prison Pipeline

In my experience I find that we will not be able to end the school-to-prison pipeline, particularly for ethnically diverse students, unless we change the culture of the school. this is why I developed and keep refining the theory of a Culture of Care in Schools.

What I find is that training teaching how to use restorative justice strategies does not create the change in schools that is needed to end the school-to-prison pipeline. In order to improve achievement and discipline outcomes for ethnically diverse students the culture of the school has to be transformed to be culturally responsive.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

School to Prison Pipeline

The School to Prison Pipeline appears to now be coming to the attention of grant funders. I will be meeting with a group in Denver on Tuesday, November 19th, to discuss this topic. this issue has been the basis for my involvement in restorative justice since the 1990s. I was working at that time as a court reporter in the district court where I live. for several years I had been concerned about the rising number of juveniles, particularly who were ethnically diverse, who were appearing in court. I was also concerned with how the punishment for these juveniles was becoming more severe.

At about the same time I learned about restorative justice in New Zealand and became fascinated with the idea. That fascination turned into a passion and has become my life's work.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Caring teachers

One of the things I generally say when I talk about the Culture of Care is that we are not lacking caring teachers. What we are lacking is systems that support caring teachers.