Changing discipline systems in OUSD schools
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Our goal is support and expand Restorative Justice in OUSD. We want students to be able to clear referrals and prevent suspensions through Restorative Justice. Students will be able to attend a student-led Restorative Justice circle to clear referrals and have to attend restorative justice circles to clear minor suspensions.
The way that our school handles different incidents between students with suspensions and referrals is not very constructive. After being suspended or getting a referral they would just go back to being disruptive in class and rude to classmates. With suspensions, nothing is resolved and students are situated in a cycle of recidivism and lead into the school to prison pipeline.
- 70% of students involved in “in school” arrests or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latino
- Students of color are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students.
- Black and Latino students are twice as likely not to graduate high school as whites
- 68% of all males in state and federal prison do not have a high school diploma
- On any given day, there are over 60,000 children locked up in juvenile facilities.
- Community-based alternatives to incarceration are much cheaper and more effective in reducing crime and recidivism. While the average cost of a juvenile prison bed is $241 a day, a slot in a community-based program costs less than $75 a day.
- Black and Latino people make up 30% of the population, but make up 61% of the incarcerated population
What is the school to prison pipeline?
The school to prison pipeline is a common issue in schools today. Students are being disciplined for actions they made in school and it is later carried into the real world, sometimes sending them to prison during school and after. Teachers unfairly look down upon students who do not do well in their classes and punish them for it. In an article from Rethinking Schools, an unknown author writes, “the more that schools--and now individual teachers--are assessed, rewarded, and fired on the basis of student test scores, the more incentive there is too push out students who bring down those scores.” When students do not do well, instead of giving them the help they need like restorative justice for example, teachers punish them, which creates a hostile environment for the students and becomes more and more prison-like. The students will become used to the prison like punitive system and spend more time in jail. In a recent survey of students in OUSD, one student said of the school to prison pipeline, “I think this is a bad problem we have in our society, because instead of trying to help understand students and allowing them to reflect on what they did so they know not to do it again we are suspending them and even sending them to prison, sometimes for just a small mistake because their teenage brain wasn't thinking things through.”
While the school to prison pipeline is a major problem there are solutions being pursued. There are community based alternatives like RJ(Restorative Justice). It was started about 30 years ago. It was created in order to reduce violence, incarceration, recidivism, suspensions, expulsions, and more. It has been proven to be cost effective, it reduces reoffending, and harmful desires through providing support for students rather than neglecting them. According to a 2009 article from PEACEBUILDER magazine titled “How Effective is Restorative Justice” RJOY(Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth writes, “Five years after the program began, violent juvenile offenses decreased almost 49 percent. Overall juvenile arrest rates decreased almost 45 percent.” This shows a significant decrease in violence and student arrest, two of the main goals of restorative justice.
We demand that OUSD administrators consistently upholds their policy of offering Restorative Justice as an option before suspensions.
We demand that OUSD administrators offer Restorative Justice as a way to retroactively clear suspensions from students’ record. Being able to talk about peoples issues rather than just putting it to the side for a couple days will help prevent things like this in the future.
We demand that the district provide more funding for RJ to help slow the school to prison pipeline and to help students who need help.
We, the undersigned, are concerned students and teachers who urge the OUSD School Board to act now to grant a modicum of funding to the cause of allowing students to remove their suspensions via Restorative Justice Circle.
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