Support restorative justice in schools

Support restorative justice in schools

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Crystol DeJohnette started this petition to Vermont State Senate and

The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 inspired an era of Zero-Tolerance in schools and with minors. Data consistently shows that Zero-Tolerance policies have been much less effective at creating safe school environments AND extremely harmful and unfair, often targeting students of color and students representing the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, including students with disabilities and students from low-income backgrounds.

These proposed amendments will change the policy so that schools can focus on finding developmentally appropriate solutions to discipline. Restorative practice and restorative justice are highlighted and can potentially be incentivized if the public shows enough interest and the amendments are passed. These practices hold students accountable while also allowing them to apologize and contribute to the school community; offending students face their actions while victims are given retribution and validation.

Policy Proposal:

The goals of the following proposed changes to the Gun-Free Schools Act are to 1) remove the requirement that schools must expel students found in possession or involved in incidents of firearms or weapons inside of a school, 2) collect data concerning incidents involving weapons or firearms in schools for the purposes of research and improved policy-making, and 3) encourage restorative practice by incentivizing it with additional funding. With the proposed amendments there will no longer be any provisions for Federal funding to be tethered to expulsions or suspensions. States and local educational agencies are now able to receive funds as long as they have some sort of standard in place. They are also given additional financial incentives for restorative practice.

In Section 4141 (b), States are still required to have in place some sort of consequence in terms of correction or discipline whenever an incident occurs involving a weapon. States and local educational agencies are not excluded from using expulsion as a disciplinary consequence, but they are also not required to. Chief administering officers are also still allowed to determine a consequence on a case-by-case basis. This means that States and schools have the opportunity to enact whichever policies they feel necessary, within reason according to established legislation on the safety of minors. This will likely, ease the pressure on schools to invoke harsh, inappropriate, or destructive disciplinary procedures or policies.

The proposed changes in Section 4141 (d) concerning reporting has been edited so that schools will not be penalized for neglecting to expel a student and therefore not be penalized for any reports that show that they did not expel a student found in possession with a weapon. The focus can now be put on collecting data for the purposes of better understanding the issues surrounding weapons in schools and coming up with policies that more adequately respond to them.

Section 4141 (h) has been omitted because it requires schools to refer students to the criminal or juvenile delinquency systems if they are found in possession of a firearm or weapon. This subsection is not in-line with our proposed policy changes at all. It plainly criminalizes students and does not consider context at all. There is too great of a risk involved with criminalizing or institutionalizing students without considering context. This policy shift will allow school administrators to decide when to involve the criminal justice systems as they see fit.

Section 4151 focuses solely on restorative practices and justice. It does not mandate that schools use them but it does encourage them to through the use of financial incentives. This section pulls heavily from literature from the Centre of Justice and Reconciliation, a program of Prison Fellowship International. The four main components are inclusion, encounter, amends, and reintegration (restorativejustice.org, 2019). Finally, Section 4154 (2) has been omitted to not limit schools if they choose to use funds for medical services, drug treatment, or rehabilitation.

With these proposed changes, States and more importantly, individual schools will have more power and freedom to implement policies that more appropriately reflects the needs of their students. The absence of penalty also places onus on schools and communities to develop more relevant forms of accountability.

 

 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 100!
At 100 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!