Twice a week, these Texas students circle up and talk about their feelings. It’s lowering suspensions and preventing violence.

“Sometimes those behaviors we see as discipline problems really are because the student is struggling with their academics,” Principal La’Quesha Grigsby said. “We’re in a situation where we have to do something drastic … because what we’ve been doing is not working.”

Over the past decade, schools across the country have looked to restorative justice — also referred to as restorative practices and restorative discipline — to help improve their disciplinary practices, as teachers continue to disproportionately suspend and expel students of color, increasing their likelihood of interaction with the criminal justice system.

When done correctly, restorative justice can change a school’s culture, building trust and deepening the relationships students have with teachers, administrators and one another. “It’s not an approach that’s focused on the bad kids.”

As national attention has turned to school safety in the wake of school shootings across the country, school leaders are looking to programs such as restorative justice to address on-campus violence.

But, experts worry that as restorative justice spreads, some school administrators will adopt it as a quick fix to improve their suspension numbers instead of taking the needed time — often years — to convince teachers and students to buy into a cultural change. When done poorly, “it’s going to go belly up.”

From the Texas Tribune.

Read the full article here.

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