Public Counsel Law Center has just published a downloadable toolkit and launched a web site aimed at revising discipline policies in schools in California. Beginning with the statement, "During the 2010-2011 academic year, California schools issued more suspensions than diplomas," the toolkit goes on to argue the need to end ineffective zero-tolerance policies and employ alternative approaches.
The "Good News" section of the toolkit (which can also be found online here) begins with a section about restorative justice and restorative practices. It says:
"Restorative Practices, which builds upon Restorative Justice and applies in the school context, is used to build a sense of school community and resolve conflict by repairing harm and restoring positive relationships through the use of regular 'restorative circles' where students and educators work together to set academic goals, develop core values for the classroom community and resolve conflicts."
It also offers the following "proof it works to hold students accountable and keep them in school":
- "A UC Berkeley study of a restorative justice program at Cole Middle School in Oakland showed an 89% drop in suspensions from 2006-2007.
- "At Richmond High School in West Contra Costa Unified School District, a 2011 Restorative School Discipline Program cut the school’s nearly 500 suspensions by January 2011 in half by January 2012.
- "West Philadelphia High School was on the state’s “Persistently Dangerous Schools” list for six years. After one year of implementing restorative justice, the climate improved dramatically: suspensions dropped 50% and violent acts and serious incidents declined 52% in 2007–2008, and another 40% by the end of the first semester in 2008."
Several interviews and information about restorative practices in San Francisco Unified School District, including IIRP's involvement, can be found on this page.
The toolkit can be downloaded as a free pdf by clicking here.
According to its web site, "Public Counsel is the largest pro bono law firm in the nation. ... Founded in 1970, Public Counsel is the public interest law firm of the Los Angeles County and Beverly Hills Bar Associations as well as the Southern California affiliate of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law."