My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio network creates Alternative Discipline Guide to transform punitive discipline practices in schools

My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) has released the Alternative Discipline Guide, a systems-change policy review to guide partners in reforming and reimagining next steps for implementing restorative justice practices.

MBKSA, one of four networks at UP Partnership, focuses on removing barriers to success for boys and young men of color. That includes reducing punitive discipline practices, building bridges for mentorship, and connecting justice-involved young people with opportunities.

Why is this important?
MBKSA partners have identified punitive discipline practices as a barrier to success for boys and young men of color. Already, nine campuses at three local school districts have implemented restorative justice practices in place of punitive practices and have experienced varying degrees of success.

Also known as “alternative discipline” practices, restorative justice is used in an effort to restore and heal the cycle of violence, poverty, and persistent access issues for justice-involved young people. The guide, created by the MBKSA Policy Table and Restorative Justice Working Group and UP Partnership staff, will inform schools, organizations, and city leaders on understanding and implementing restorative practices.

Digging Deeper
To appreciate the benefits of this guide, it’s important to understand the difference between the two terms (punitive versus alternative discipline):

Punitive Discipline Practices

Restorative Discipline Practices

Definition

Aiming to punish the “wrongdoer”

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

“A mindset that values relationships at the center of community life.” 
(UMOJA)

Typical discipline practices in schools

Suspension, corporal punishment, and/or detention

Classroom circles, teacher training, and/or peace circles

Aim

To punish the misbehavior and the person who misbehaved

To understand the roots of the misbehavior and restore broken relationships

Punitive discipline practices

  • Wrong doer is punished
  • Consequences include suspension, detention and corporal punishment
  • Person who misbehaved must be held accountable (i.e. punished)

Restorative discipline practices

  • Practices are formed from a relational approach to building school climate and addressing behavior
  • Classroom circles, teacher training and peace circles are common practices in the institution
  • Accountability is defined as understanding the effects of the offense and repairing harm

From the Field
Beyond implementation of practices at various campuses, some MBKSA partners have taken their work to the next level. For example, San Antonio ISD has integrated restorative justice elements into their Student Bill of Rights and Code of Conduct. The University of Texas at San Antonio has hired a Director of Restorative Justice, which sets the precedent for integrated restorative discipline into university settings — moving beyond the typical K-12 setting. Alamo Colleges and Judson ISD also are hiring a Chief Equity Officer. And lastly, the City of San Antonio has made investments into violence prevention, which includes restorative justice practices in schools.

What’s next
This guide has the power to go beyond the MBKSA network. By sharing the guide with a larger network, MBKSA partners have the ability to move from punishment to healing.

— By Paulina Sosa

“Restorative justice focuses on the harm done, restoring relationships, and building community.”
Alternative Discipline Guide