Schools ban suspensions after success with restorative justice
(N.Y.) Reports of thousands of students ages 3-7 being suspended each year in the United States has prompted numerous districts to adopt restorative justice practices. Most recently, New York officials are taking it a step further by banning suspensions of young students outright.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in late July that schools would be barred from suspending pupils in kindergarten through second grade—similar to action taken earlier this year in districts in Texas and Missouri.
Prior to this recent proposal, de Blasio began exploring restorative justice practices and announced a plan last year to introduce them in schools.
“In elementary school, exclusionary discipline relates to out-of-school time and loss of in-class learning, which we know even in kindergarteners can lead to poorer academic performance,” Trevor Fronius, senior researcher at WestEd, said in an interview. “There’s a move away from exclusionary discipline and toward preventative disciplinary actions that keep kids in school.
“Restorative justice practices are just one of the tools or techniques that schools are starting to use or implement more broadly across districts,” he said.
Decisions to revamp disciplinary policies have been driven by state and federal reports regarding high suspension and dropout rates. Chronic school absence has regularly been linked to low academic achievement, high dropout rates and increased likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system by reports from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education.
According to the Department of Education, almost 7,000 preschoolers were suspended during the 2013-14 school year.
Many studies have also found that zero-tolerance policies, which often lead to higher suspension rates, tend to disproportionately affect children of color or those with disabilities. For preschoolers, the Department of Education found that black students were 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.
In New York, more than 800 students in kindergarten through second grade were suspended last year, often due to “insubordination”—a catchall term for instances in which students defy or disobey school employees.
Such policies, according to a press release from de Blasio’s office, factor in to why students of color and students with disabilities represent a disproportionate portion of those who face suspension.
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