DENVER – Several schools in Colorado are using a new approach to school discipline aside from sending kids to the office or suspending them. The concept is known as restorative practices – where issues are talked out before problems become even bigger.
“I think it’s super effective because students get a voice in the process, whereas before, they didn’t. It was just like, ‘OK, we’re the adult or we’re the school and tell you what you did wrong and tell you what your punishment is,’” said Allison Horton, restorative practices coordinator at Skinner Middle School in Denver. “Instead this gives them a buy-in of wanting to be part of this process.”
These conversations are not a free-for-all – educators have to get specific training beforehand.
“The formula is: what happened, who was affected, what part can you take responsibility for and how are you going to make this right?” said social worker Joe Waldon.
The goal is to keep young people out of the criminal justice system by giving them tools they can use their entire lives.
“I like to have students figure out what they think they should do to make things right, so it’s not me telling them what they should do,” said Horton.
“It doesn’t make sense to funnel kids into a broken system that isn’t going to teach them a skill,” said Waldon.
Children benefit and so do teachers, who often get a better idea of what students are facing at school and at home.
There are some limits to the approach. If laws may be broken, police may be called to assist.