First Presenter's Institution

School District 49 (Colorado)

Second Presenter's Institution

School District 49

Third Presenter's Institution

NA

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Session 2 (Verelst)

Strand #1

Safety & Violence Prevention

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

HANDS: School expulsion is the ultimate measure to address a student's inability to meet the expectations of a school system. Frequently this is a contentious activity that ends with the student and their family shamed and marginalized within the school's community. Often parents employ the services of a lawyer to represent their family against the seemingly monolithic school system. Everyone in the process is affected and some are left fractured or even broken by the experience. However, applying restorative practices in the form of Formal Restorative Conferences changes the environment from one where the student and family feel something is done "to" them, to an environment where the student and family feel that the school system is working "with" them. HEART: Social-emotional support for students who have caused harm is an important factor in reintegrating them into the school system. Accountability is an important part of the support system because if students do not understand that there are consequences for falling below community expectations, then they cannot own the harm and strive to become realigned with community expectations. The deferred expulsion option allows students an opportunity to return to the environment where they caused harm. The student has greater accountability through a safety contract, which includes administrator check-ins, social worker support, and possibly random searches. If the student has a suspendable offense, they would transition from being deferred to a home-based out of school expulsion with online education. The outcomes for successfully deferred expulsions are more effective than exclusion because to be successful the student must perform and heal harm in an environment where they were previously unsuccessful.

Brief Program Description

Expulsion hearings do not have to be contentious events. Using restorative practices in an accountable environment changes the expulsion hearing into an alternative placement discussion where parents, students, and school officials figure out the next step together.

Summary

The Director of Culture & Services and the Director of Safety & Security for a PK-12 public-school district of 25,000 students collaborated to create a pilot study, which utilized restorative practices in expulsion hearings for a 3-year period. Using language in the statute that allowed for alternatives to traditional discipline, they piloted using deferred expulsion as an outcome of district expulsion hearings. The theory is that students can behave and be successful in exclusionary environments, but once they go back to school they fail again in the social environment. However, it was hypothesized that if students returned to the social environment where they caused harm, with greater accountability, then those who were successful would already be reintegrated and have a greater opportunity for continued success after the period of deferment. The reintegration process for deferred student requires additional social-emotional support in addition to the increased accountability; therefore, social workers are assigned to the students to teach social-emotional lessons and conduct home visits, the students must check-in with administrators on a daily basis, and the prospect submitting to random searches helps the students to resist old habits. If the student successfully completes their period of deferment, then there will be no record of expulsion in their student record. Alternative career and vocational pathways are offered to students who have trouble engaging with the traditional college track curriculum. The presenters will give an overview of restorative practices and discuss their findings from the pilot study. They will also share data obtained following the conclusion of the pilot study. They will discuss the Formal Restorative Conference format that was used to facilitate the expulsion hearings.

Evidence

In addition to the evidence from our pilot study, here are some sources that support restorative practices as an effective alternative to traditional discipline.

Rand Study Summary (from Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions?)

Recent studies have concluded that exclusionary discipline practices, such as suspension, might be impeding student success. Correlational studies have shown a link between suspension and lower student achievement (Skiba et al., 2014), and suspensions are associated with involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems (Fabelo et al., 2011; González, 2012). One study found suspension to be the top predictor of students dropping out of school (Flannery, 2015). Correlational data show that, in the United States, controlling for demographic and academic variables (e.g., family income, immigration status, test scores), the estimated graduation rate for suspended students was 68 percent, compared with 80 percent for non-suspended students (Rumberger and Losen, 2016). Harsh discipline for minor or subjective infractions has contributed to high suspension rates. Some studies have found that most offenses for which students are suspended are nonviolent (Skiba et al., 2014), including tardiness, absence, and disrespect (González, 2012). Additionally, studies show that African American students are suspended at higher rates than white students. A report from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, documented large racial disparities in California’s school districts, noting that African American students were disproportionately dealt the harshest exclusionary penalties (Losen, Martinez, and Gillespie, 2012). A study of three years of discipline data from the state of Arkansas found that while school-level differences accounted for most of the variation in discipline, African American students received longer punishments than their white peers for the same offenses, even in the same schools (Anderson and Ritter, 2017). The use of restorative practices in schools has been suggested by policymakers and practitioners as both an alternative to exclusionary practices and as a mechanism for improving student behavior, thus reducing the need for suspensions. Restorative practices grew out of the use of restorative justice in the criminal justice system. Restorative justice relies on the basic notion that people are connected through a web of relationships and that when harm occurs between people, the web of relationships that creates a community is torn (Zehr, 2002). In practice, restorative justice brings together victims and offenders to discuss the harm, the impact it had, and what needs to be done to reestablish the relationships that form the community (Zehr, 2002; González, 2012). Restorative practices in schools include many specific program types and do not have one monolithic definition in the literature; they are broadly seen as a nonpunitive approach to handling conflict (Fronius et al., 2016). Restorative practices both prevent harm through relationship-building and respond to conflict in ways that repair damaged relationships (González, 2012; Kline, 2016).

A number of descriptive reports and correlational studies suggest positive outcomes of implementing restorative practices in schools (Riestenberg, 2003; Mirsky, 2007; Baker, 2008; McCold, 2008; Lewis, 2009; Sumner, Silverman, and Frampton, 2010; Gonzalez, 2012, 2015; Simson, 2012; Armour, 2013, 2016; McMorris et al., 2013; Jain et al., 2014; Gregory et al., 2016). These include lower suspension rates, improved school climate, and improved student attendance. However, none of these studies used experimental methods, which raises questions about the validity and generalizability of their findings.

G. McCluskey et al in Educational Review (excerpt)

Restorative Practices originally developed as restorative justice, an approach to crime that focussed on repairing harm and giving a voice to ‘‘victims’’ (Bazemore and Umbreit 2001; Barton 2000; Marshall 1998; Fattah and Peters 1998; Barnett 1977). RP in education differs from restorative justice in that the latter involves professionals working exclusively with young people who offend. In RP in education, the whole school community, all school staff, pupils and sometimes parents, can be involved (Hopkins 2004). Restorative Justice in the school setting views misconduct not as school-rule-breaking, and therefore as a violation of the institution, but as a violation against people and relationships in the school and wider community. (Cameron and Thorsborne 2001, 183) In many countries, it has developed through the use of restorative conferencing; a structured approach to restoring relationships when there has been harm, that involves offenders, victims, and key others in a process designed to resolve difficulties and repair relationships (Morrison 2007). The largest independent evaluation of restorative justice in schools in the UK to date, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board of England and Wales, reported on a pilot initiative in which youth offending teams worked with 26 schools in England and Wales (Bitel 2005). The aims of the initiative were to reduce offending, bullying and victimization and to improve attendance, largely through restorative conferencing. Mirroring findings elsewhere (Blood 2005; Chmelynski 2005; Drewery 2004), there was found to be little impact on some outcome measures such as exclusion and no significant improvement in pupil attitudes except in the small number of schools where a whole school approach had been adopted. However, the researchers concluded that restorative justice in schools, while ‘‘not a panacea… [could] if implemented correctly…improve the school environment, enhance learning and encourage young people to become more responsible and empathetic’’ (Bitel 2005, 13).

The evidence base of restorative practices is expanding daily to validate the effectiveness of this burgeoning social science.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Lou Fletcher is responsible for developing and implementing district-wide education, outreach, and training initiatives to promote and sustain a culture of inclusion, equity, and respect. He fosters engagement and leads services for students, staff, and the community, which includes student enrollment, expulsion adjudication, grievance administration, district accountability, and restorative practice, and is responsible for monitoring and investigating incidents of harassment and discrimination according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX. Dr. Fletcher served as an officer in the US Air Force for 20 years in locations such as Korea, France, Germany, and various places in the US.

Mr. David Watson has been with District 49 since 2007 and serves as the Director of Safety and Security. His previous background includes 21 years as a police officer and Sheriff’s Deputy (Retired), and as a Staff Sergeant in the Colorado Army National Guard. He attended Colorado Technical University and Rio Salado Community College. Mr. Watson is passionate about school safety and is on the Officer’s Board as the secretary for the Colorado Association of School Safety Law Enforcement Officers (CASSLEO) and is an active advocate for school safety procedures both in the Pike’s Peak region, as well as statewide.

Keyword Descriptors

Restorative Practices, Accountability, Deferment, Reintegration, Formal Restorative Conference, Expulsion, Fair Process, Reintegrative Shame

Presentation Year

2020

Start Date

3-9-2020 1:15 PM

End Date

3-9-2020 2:30 PM

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Mar 9th, 1:15 PM Mar 9th, 2:30 PM

From Crime and Punishment to Harm and Healing

Session 2 (Verelst)

Expulsion hearings do not have to be contentious events. Using restorative practices in an accountable environment changes the expulsion hearing into an alternative placement discussion where parents, students, and school officials figure out the next step together.