Monday, March 30, 2015

Suspending Students Isn't Effective. Here's What Schools Should Do Instead

From:  Nation Swell

by Chris Peake

Audubon Middle School discovered that getting rid of the disciplinary action actually improves pupil behavior.

A decade ago, 60 percent of students at one South Los Angeles middle school were suspended at some point during the school year. Out of 1,958 sixth, seventh and eight graders, 1,189 were written up for drugs, violence or class disruptions. But this zero-tolerance discipline policy didn’t have the desired effects. Troubled kids isolated themselves, academics lagged and enrollment sharply declined.

Led by a new principal and funded by a federal grant, Audubon Middle School and Gifted Magnet Center, an inner-city junior high school with one of the largest proportions of African-American students in L.A., joined the growing movement of implementing restorative justice in schools: Instead of simply penalizing misbehavior, the strategy involves talking through the reasons why a child is acting out. Prioritizing resolution over retribution, it’s all about keeping kids in school while maintaining the best learning environment. Audubon has taken the idea to a whole new level. Last school year, out of 827 middle school students, only 13 were booted from class — an astonishing 98.9 percent drop from 10 years ago.

In this community, too many African American and Hispanic students fall victim to a life of crime and end up imprisoned, says Kevin Dailey, a behavior intervention specialist with 31 years of experience at Audubon. “People are behind the gray walls because they don’t know how to communicate or because they didn’t have those supportive relationships,” he explains. “We have to do whatever we can to keep them out of that. Knowing how to communicate, how to listen and how to speak from the heart are very important.” In his mind, communication is the difference between being facedown on the ground in handcuffs and enrolled in college.

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