An article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Spencer Whitney (Restorative justice: turning lives around) 7-10-16, talks about Berkeley Tech Academy Principal Sheila Quintana, who established a restorative justice system at the school. This method of dealing with problems is much more positive than shutting students out of school, which can send them into a cycle of falling behind in class, dropping out with few employment opportunities, and elevating the risk of a life of crime and incarceration.
“In restorative justice, perpetrators of minor to moderate offenses are brought into an intensive program in which they are led to confront the underlying causes and consequences of their actions. They meet with their victims in sessions known as ‘the circle’ as part of the process of taking responsibility for their actions and repairing the harm they caused. Restorative justice was already used in Berkeley schools, but three September suspensions prompted Quintana to intensify the academy’s program, identifying conflicts before they turn violent. In one incident of name-calling and cyber-bullying on social media, the three young women involved were brought in for a 90minute session at a teacher’s request. The harassment stopped.”
Quintana said the restorative justice practices at her school allow students to have dignity and options when it came to behaviors that don’t serve them. “It has had an impact on our statistics … our goal is to make sure the students are in school for instruction.”
Berkeley Tech has had just one suspension and no expulsions since September. The Oakland Unified School District’s $2.3 million “Restorative Justice Initiative” has been credited with helping reduce the suspensions of African American students by 40 percent in its first year. These programs can keep young people on track before they become mired in the criminal justice system. California is making a long overdue effort to reduce its prison population.
Studies have shown that African Americans, especially, are more likely to be suspended from school — which helps explain their disproportionate representation in prisons. “And the racial profiling begins early. A 2014 U.S. Department of Education study found that African Americans accounted for 18 percent of preschoolers in the U.S., but 42 percent of all suspensions.
“The results in the pioneering Bay Area schools have led state Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, to propose SB463, a measure to encourage local districts to train school personnel in restorative justice practices to break cycles of violence.”
- Elizabeth Wagele’s book, The Enneagram for Teens, helps teens from another direction—by building character from the inside out. Teens are encouraged to develop their own values, to think about who they are, what they like, and what kind of a life they want to lead.