The Indigenous practice of restorative justice has been gaining momentum in school districts as an alternative to traditional, punitive forms of discipline such as suspensions and expulsions. Zero-tolerance punishments tend to be disproportionate for boys and young men of color, as well as contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Unlike zero-tolerance forms of punishment, restorative justice focuses on healing the harm that has been done, learning social skills to avoid future conflict and to reintegrate the offender back into the school community. As Jeff Price, Principal of Taffola Middle School, explains, “Restorative [Justice] is not no discipline. When that consequence is done, we welcome them back and discuss what happened, what we could have done differently, what was your role in it and what are we going to do going forward.”
Working with longstanding community partners, Restorative Justice has been implemented in local school districts like Harlandale ISD, Judson ISD and San Antonio ISD. The benefits of Restorative Justice in these school districts have been tangible and noticeable. Change can be seen in everyone – students, teachers and administrators – as they embrace restorative practices in school. School communities are seeing the benefits of a healthy campus culture and students are learning valuable life skills of how to process their thoughts and feelings and to use their voice to express themselves in a more positive way.
“To me, circle is life because it helped me become the person I am today. It helped me grow,” said one Taffola Middle School student.
As we continue to work towards the collective North Star goal of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan — to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030 — restorative justice will be integral in reaching that goal. Promoting both healing and voice, along with access, have been identified as must HAVEs for equity Bexar County’s young people.
If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement or the Restorative Practices Collaborative, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here. You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.