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

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

UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative closes out its first academic year of work with commitments to equity in 2021-2022

UP Partnership's Equitable Enrollment Collaborative closes out its first year

The Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC), a community of practice between Diplomás and My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) partners, closed out its first year at the spring convening on May 13. 

With more than 80 partners across Bexar County, this collaborative focuses explicitly on equitable enrollment practices for young men of color and Dreamers by providing a tailored space for institutional partners to learn, collaborate, and strategize.

DIGGING DEEPER: To accomplish the overarching goal of equity across institutions, the EEC has identified a number of priorities and objectives for partner institutions. 

The EEC prioritizes its strategies and initiatives around:

  • Enrollment: Increase postsecondary enrollment from underrepresented districts and student groups.
  • Data: Strengthen institutional capacity to analyze and share data.
  • Equity: Develop and enhance equity-focused plans in the institution.

Institutions aim to:

  • Assess current enrollment goals, partnerships and strategies;
  • Develop a strategic enrollment framework to align goals;
  • Review and Revise funding initiatives and policy structures;
  • Monitor real-time application and financial aid data;
  • Build data infrastructure to strengthen data-sharing.

STRATEGIES IN ACTION: As partners celebrated during the spring convening, they acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done the next three years of the EEC, starting this summer.

“[We’re] setting a goal for interventions to support at-risk students,” one partner said in their commitment.

Each partner was asked to make a summer commitment and one for the next academic year. Additionally, partners at ISDs and higher education institutions highlighted specific projects and ideas, including mentorship programs, student workshops and enrichment opportunities.

“[We’ll] continue to establish strong relationships and communication to ensure we are meeting student needs,” said another.

Restorative Justice pilot initiative proves successful despite shortened academic year

Restorative Justice pilot initiative proves successful despite shortened academic year

The University of Texas at San Antonio releases evaluation of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio’s pilot restorative justice program

After one academic year, eight out of nine campuses that participated in My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio’s (MBKSA) pilot restorative justice initiative have shown progress on first-year implementation indicators, according to an evaluation by The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Restorative justice is a whole school approach to building a positive school climate and addressing harm.

 

“Though the year was cut short due to COVID-19, what we see in this report is promising. The passionate and clearly committed school teams can expect to see continued results if they follow the recommendations we made in the report. Having a clear vision grounded in social justice, using best practices and committing to removing barriers at the individual, school and district levels will be necessary for significant systemic change with long term impact for our community,” said Jelena Todic, principal investigator and assistant professor in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy.  

MBKSA launched whole school restorative justice models at nine campuses in the San Antonio, Judson and Harlandale school districts during the 2019-2020 academic year with support from UTSA restorative justice researchers and practitioners, Robert Rico and Todic.

 

MBKSA, a network of community-based organizations, school districts, UTSA, and city and county government, formed the Rethinking Discipline Community of Practice (RDCP), which met monthly to discuss best practices and implementation strategies. The RDCP is one strategy MBKSA uses to tackle inequities in education. Local disaggregated data shows that exclusionary discipline practices disproportionately affect young people of color, especially boys.  

 

Despite a disruption in the academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of schools that implemented the restorative justice model achieved increased commitment to restorative practices, changing dialogue and increased options for managing behavior. Additionally, all schools provided various elements of the practice such as professional development for staff, peace rooms and ‘circles’ to build community and resolve conflict among staff and students.

 

Restorative justice provides opportunities for my son to share his thoughts and feelings in a safe space. Circles also help him learn more about his classmates and their experiences,” said Paula Johnson, a parent and the Director of IDRA EAC-South.

 

Because they prioritize relationships and community, restorative justice practices became critical during the pandemic because social emotional learning became a high priority while working in a virtual environment. 

 

“We know that having an administration that is committed to this process is critical to success for any whole-school restorative justice model. What we saw in this academic year was that these tools we’d established in schools were actually critical during the pandemic” Todic said.

 

Because of the initiative’s infancy, especially in light of the COVID-19 interruption, it is promising that four schools decreased suspensions and one maintained low rates throughout the project. Additionally, three out of eight schools showed signs of reducing disproportionate impact of exclusionary discipline on children of color. 

 

“By shifting mindsets and creating a culture of supportive accountability in schools, we set up our boys and young men of color for greater success not only in school, but into adulthood. MBKSA has been committed to providing pathways for boys and young men of color to college success and I believe this is critical to this work,” said Derek Taylor, MBKSA Justice-involved Young People Chair and Senior Management Coordinator for Stand-Up SA at the City of San Antonio’s Metro Health District.