When Discipline Divides

Like every pairing, the teacher-principal relationship includes tension. And according a recent survey by the Education Week Research Center, that discord is overwhelmingly based on one main issue: how discipline is handled within the school. 54 percent of teachers and 24 percent of principals cited student discipline as the major source of friction.

Principals have faced pressure from outside of the school—from both state and federal authorities—to reduce suspensions and expulsions. Meanwhile, teachers who are required to meet educational testing standards often struggle with the distraction that behavioral issues represent. Handling an unruly student without principal support can mean lost instructional time.

The tension can be exacerbated by the adoption of new policies without adequate teacher training. Lack of communication about who will be handling what—and what the consequences of misbehavior will be—can leave teachers feeling unclear on their recourse for student infractions. According to Education Week, strengthening that communication and, more generally, the relationships between school leadership, teachers, and parents, could go a long way to ease some of the tension revealed by the survey.

Many teachers cite tardiness and skipped classes as some of the big problems they face. And those are real challenges, as being present in class is necessary to mastering material and proving that mastery on a test.

But these aren’t the only issues teachers mention as problematic. They’re bothered by dress code violations, incessant arguing, being sworn at. Teacher objections to this kind of disrespect reflects an expectation that at least accompanies—if not exceeds—the desire that classroom culture be conducive to achievement.

“School is not just about education; we want them to be caring, responsible adults one day, citizens who respect people just because they’re people,” said Amanda Johns, who teaches fourth grade at Kennedy Elementary in Manistee, Michigan. “It’s about the common good. How does it impact the common good when a kid can get away with saying ‘you’re an idiot’ or ‘you’re so stupid’?”

Like Johns, most adults share a standard of not only academic success but personal conduct. Another term for that standard of conduct—one that respects others and upholds the common good— is “character.”

Judith Kafka, a professor of education policy and history at the City University of New York, told Education Week that discipline will be an issue to grapple with at every kind of school in every era. Even in the 1950s, she said, journalists were reporting a crisis of discipline.

Kafka added that “it may help to remember that discipline isn’t an extra thing schools have to deal with that gets in the way of teaching core subjects. Discipline is a core subject.”

This thinking—discipline as a core subject—may sound radical to overloaded educators, but it has the power to transform school culture. Rather than see discipline as a distraction to learning, educators might view a well-structured discipline process as intrinsic to the nurture of successful students—as important as math or history class. As veteran superintendent CultureFeed contributor Angus McBeath would frequently tell teachers, character formation isn’t in addition to the work; it is the work.

If discipline is concerned with how to respond to wrongdoing, character formation is its complement—focused on teaching students to do right. Teachers and principals can reduce the need for discipline by intentionally shaping character—explicitly teaching it, carefully modeling it, and seeking ways for students to practice it. Perhaps, with this common goal in mind, relationships between teachers and principals may even be strengthened and smoothed.



Student knife incidents prompt FL district to highlight anti-bullying efforts

Two recent incidents of Lake County, Florida students carrying knives to class is prompting school officials to step up efforts to promote the district’s anti-bullying hotline in October – National Bullying Prevention Month.

Fred Jones, a sergeant with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and longtime school resource officer, told Spectrum News both students brought the weapons to school for protection against bullies, but will be charged with a felony for bringing the weapons to school.

In one instance last month, a 10-year-old girl at Minneola Elementary Charter School told police she stashed a kitchen knife inside a stuffed animal she carried in her backpack “for protection.” Days later, a South Lake High School student caught with a knife told police he “carried on a daily basis” to protect against bullies, according to the news site.

“Maybe that is something inside of them that they feel they need to, maybe it is a culture that says ‘I need to protect myself, I am looking out for me.’ But it is a dangerous one,” said Jones.  “If your kid is having a problem, they don’t feel comfortable coming in, please give the school resource officer or deputy a call. Talk to them, and let us address it.”

Jones pointed to the district’s SpeakOut hotline, coordinated through the Central Florida Crimeline, as one way students can report bullying and remain anonymous. Students can also text “speakout” to 274637 or use the P3 Campus App to make reports, Jones said.

School and sheriff’s officials posted a message about National Bullying Prevention Month on the district’s Facebook page as well to remind families of the consequences of bullying in Lake County schools.

“Many times, bullying is directly related to comments or actions threatening our schools. A threat or even a joke about shooting up the school is not cool. Children will be prosecuted and suspended immediately pending a threat assessment by school administration,” according to the Facebook post.

“Bullying, including cyber-bullying, will not be tolerated in Lake County Schools. Have a talk with your kids and make sure they understand that we have a zero-tolerance concerning threats to our schools and students.”

Crafting a coherent anti-bullying message is an important component of effective moral education that’s not as easy as it seems, according to researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

“This failure to provide a fully developed and broadly coherent moral message was partly due to public school teachers’ reluctance to opine on controversial issues,” Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Content of Their Character”

Often, educators simply avoid “providing serious direction on what was right and what was wrong,” Hunter wrote.

Officials in Lake County Schools clearly understand the important role educators play in keeping kids safe and conveying important messages about character. The SpeakOut hotline is one of several ways educators in the district are going beyond talk to put the message into action.

The SpeakOut website offers more information about the three different ways of reporting bullying through the program, which is tailored to students in elementary, middle and high schools.

Texas teen fights expulsion for sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance

A Texas high schooler is fighting to reverse an expulsion decision for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, an act of defiance she argues is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

“I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that,” Windfern High School senior India Landry said last year after she was sent home. “It’s not obviously what’s going on in America today.”

Kizzy Landry, the now 18-year-old student’s mother, contends school officials initially would not provide details about why the girl was expelled last year, though a principal later said “she can’t come to my school if she won’t stand for the pledge,” USA Today reports.

India told KHOU she sat through the pledge on previous occasions without issue, despite state law that requires a parent’s signature to do so. The situation prompted the Landrys to file a federal lawsuit against the Cy-Fair Independent School District, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened in the lawsuit late last month to defend the expulsion.

“Schoolchildren cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge,” Paxton said in a statement, which also noted Texas is one of 26 states that require a parent’s signature. “Requiring the pledge to be recited at the start of every school day has the laudable result of fostering respect for our flag and a patriotic love of our country.”

Laundry’s attorney, Randall Kallinen, shrugged off Paxton’s involvement as a political ploy, and noted the punishment came one week after President Trump criticized NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

“We are confident that, based upon the law, that Ms. Landry will prevail and she will once again be able to sit for the pledge of allegiance,” he told KHOU.

An informal survey by KHOU found roughly 85 percent of viewers online agreed with the effort to require students to stand for the Pledge, while only 15 percent believe students have the right to choose.

That’s seemingly consistent with a 2016 survey by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture outlined in “The Vanishing Center of American Democracy.”

The study found:

“Eight of ten (81%) (of respondents) … agree that ‘America is an exceptional nation with a special responsibility to lead the world.’ Overwhelmingly (93%), they also describe themselves as patriotic.”

The American Civil Liberties Union offers resources for students and teachers that outline free speech rights in public schools, covering topics from silent protests, to walkouts, to political clothing in the classroom.

“If you’re a public school student, you don’t check your constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors,” according to the ACLU website. “But whether schools can punish you for speaking out depends on when, where, and how you decide to express yourself.”


Parents complain about student survey about bullying, violence and sex assault

Efforts in a South Carolina school to broach sexual assault and other sensitive subjects with students is meeting resistance from some parents who believe the discussions are better left at home.

Jennifer McAteer, mother of a Lancaster High School student, told WCNC she was disappointed when her son texted her about a school sex survey he was asked to complete in class last week.

“You know, if they want to do a survey, that’s fine do a survey, do it online with your mom and dad, mail it, whatever, but this isn’t something to go in the classroom and be presented with before parents know and before we can talk about it with our minor children,” she said.

“I hope that this does not start the conversation, which it has,” McAteer said. “I think this should be talked about with me and my children, not through children and my children. This should be talked about at home.”

Paul McKenzie, the district’s veteran research director, told the news site he crafted the survey as part of a broader effort to gauge teen perceptions of bullying, violence and sexual assault ahead of a new program called “Engaging Men and Boys.”

The survey includes questions such as: “You’re at a party and a girl there is drunk and passes out. Some boys decide to take her to a bedroom and take turns having sex with the young lady, what would you do?”

“It’s an effort to get young men that when bad things happen, they stand up and take a stance,” McKenzie said. “And so that’s what that question was, ‘What would you do? Would you call the police? Would You call a parent? Would you not know what to do at all?’”

“Engaging Men and Boys” is an elective course at the school run by the group “Palmetto Citizens Against Sexual Assault” using a curriculum developed in coordination with a local church. The class is designed to include church leaders, police and other community leaders to help serve as role models for students who don’t have a strong male influence at home.

The survey, McKenzie said, serves as a baseline for progress.

“The data that we collect is not only to identify problems but also to help us generate solutions and monitor to see if they’re working or not,” he said.

A year-long Associated Press investigation published last year uncovered roughly 17,000 reports of sex assaults by K-12 students between 2011 and 2015.

Researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia noted that some public high school teachers’ are reluctant to engage students in controversial issues like sexual assault and that this has potential to undermines character education.

They observed “this failure to provide a fully developed and broadly coherent moral message was partly due to public school teachers’ reluctance to opine on controversial issues,” Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a wide variety of schools.

The situation means many often refrain from “providing serious direction on what is right and what is wrong,” Hunter wrote.

A 2010 study from the University of Newcastle takes a deeper look at “Teaching about, and dealing with, sensitive issues in schools,” particularly from the perspective of pre-service teachers.

“Teachers are developing an increasingly active role in the education of students in areas of sensitivity, including issues such as sexuality, mental health, grief and loss and child protection. There is a growing expectation for teachers to become competent not only in educating students in these areas but also in recognizing and dealing with such matters if and when they arise in the classroom,” according to the study.

“However, a large proportion of teachers express discomfort in these areas, resulting in negative outcomes for both teachers and students.”

Growing opioid epidemic highlights cultural problems plaguing schools, communities

Experts believe the opioid epidemic gripping the United States and Canada will likely only get worse in the foreseeable future, fueled in large part by a breakdown in community and family support systems.

The Globe and Mail recently highlighted the mushrooming drug problem plaguing schools and communities in both countries, which is “now killing twice as many people as traffic accidents.”

Roughly 70 percent of the drug overdoses involve the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

“I don’t even think we have the vocabulary any more to describe (how) it’s getting worse,” Benedikt Fischer, scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, told the news site.

The U.S. is on pace to hit 52,000 drug deaths this year, while Canada is expecting about 4,000, though per-person fatality rates are similar. The problem is now 10 times worse than the heroin epidemic following the Vietnam War, and experts offered several reasons why they don’t expect the situation to improve any time soon.

Fentanyl is reportedly 50 times stronger than heroin, and the margin for a fatal dosing error is slim. The drug is also extremely concentrated, which means producers in China and other countries can easily conceal it in the mail or small packages. Smartphones have made it easier to distribute fentanyl, as well, with some drug users alleging they can get their fix faster than a pizza delivery, according to the news site.

“I don’t see a snowball’s chance in Hell of stopping the flow,” illegal drug analyst Mark Kleiman told the Globe and Mail.

Perhaps the biggest contributing factor, according to journalist Andrew Sullivan, centers on broader cultural issues.

The Globe and Mail explains:

Most of our social institutions – the ones that used to officer solace, structure, friendship, and support – are under threat. The churches collapsed a generation ago. Families are in bad shape too, especially among middle – and lower-income earners, where marriage is on the wane and may kids grow up in households without both parents.

Economic change hits some people hard. Communities disintegrate. We’re living in an age where faith, family and community – the pillars that we used to count on – are all eroding.

That’s the biggest reason why this war on opioids will be so hard to win. It’s not a war we need but a reconstruction of community. And we have no idea how to do that.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted the significant impact a person’s “moral ecology” has on character in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a wide variety of U.S. schools.

“When social institutions – whether the family, peer relationships, youth organizations, the internet, religious congregations, entertainment or popular culture – cluster together, they form a larger ecosystem of powerful cultural influences,” Hunter wrote.

When those institutions are strong, students excel both in academics and life. When they’re weak, bullying, drug abuse, and other serious issues take over.

The Recovery Village, a Florida-based rehabilitation facility, offers a “six minute read” that takes a closer look at drug and alcohol use in high schools, as well as advice on how to identify and help students struggling with addiction.

Students leaders blend lessons from military, sports to serve a greater purpose

Two student athletes at George Washington University are sharing how the lessons they’ve learned through years of military training and team sports have prepared them to excel as leaders.

Senior Riley Tejcek, an infielder on the George Washington University softball team, participated in the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course over the last two summers, and sophomore swimmer and diver Nick Tomczyk is simultaneously training for the Naval Reserves.

And while the physical aspects of the military programs have undoubtedly helped to keep the students in top form, both contend it’s the military’s leadership mentality of serving a higher purpose that has benefitted them the most, the GW Hatchet reports.

“It’s all about the team unit, it’s not about you, it’s about the people next to you,” Tejcek said. “That’s the important thing, is it’s not about you.”

The students discussed their grueling schedules, from early morning workouts before a day full of classes to rigorous military training sessions and Division I championships.

“Once I’m done with one thing, I focus on the next thing and that’s how I get through it,” said Tomcyzk, a squad leader in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Crops. “I take it one step at a time each day.”

Tomcyzk said he’s using lessons learned in the water to guide his seven-person platoon.

“Being a part of a team definitely helps because I’m learning from the captains of the swim and dive team how they’re being leaders,” he said. “I can take stuff off of them and transfer it to the unit to be a leader.”

Tejcek said the selfless approach to team work in the Marine Corps mirrored her approach as captain of the softball team, both providing the “rewarding experience” of serving something bigger then herself.

“Those are the people that are going to impact me the rest of my life,” she said. “Above all else is the relationships with people I’ve met along the way that keeps me going and keeps me motivated, absolutely.”

Researchers at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture discussed the “thick” and “dense” moral culture common in the military and team sports in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education programs in a variety of U.S. high schools.

Through numerous interviews and observations, researchers noted “the source and setting for moral and civic education matter – that the ‘thickness’ of cultural endowments and the ‘density’ of moral community within which those endowments find expression are significant in the formation of personal and public virtue in children.”

The career site The Balance Careers offers an outline of the United States Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course for students and school counselors exploring career options. The program involves a very dense moral community through weeks-long summer training sessions, while offering tax-free monthly stipends, tuition assistance and training pay.

Upon graduating from college, students are commissioned as officers in the U.S. Marines and go on to attend six months of basic training.

Officials at suburban Pittsburgh’s Thomas Jefferson High School want students to know what to expect when they violate the rules

Michael Ghilani, West Jefferson Hills superintendent, told the Tribune-Review that in years past there’s been a “perception in the district” that “students are treated differently, depending on who they are,” so administrators created a discipline matrix to clarify expected behavior and consequences for violations.

Over the last seven months, school leaders developed clear definitions for more than 60 student infractions, along with a progressive set of punishments for repeat offenses, and published the matrix in this year’s school handbook, which was approved by board members in August.

“One of the things we heard from parents was, when things are reported, nothing is ever done about it,” Ghilani said.

“We want our discipline and how we treat students to be rooted in fairness and teaching. I think when there’s ambiguous expectations or there’s a perception that everyone is treated differently, it leads to an environment (where) there is not a lot of trust,” Ghilani said. “We wanted to firm that up by having a very open, transparent and clear code of conduct.”

Ghilani said punishments for misbehavior include both punitive and restorative elements, with a particular focus on rooting out bullying.

“There are a lot of offenses, like assault, like bullying, that have a restorative piece to it,” he said. “Restorative actions that actually look to heal and change the environment and culture do have a lasting impact on the student environment and culture and actually teach.”

Thomas Jefferson principal Pete Murphy stressed that all school leaders will use the matrix to ensure the message and response to student misbehavior is consistent, which makes the process easier for both students and staff. Parents are also required to sign off on the student handbook to ensure they’ve reviewed the document.

“We want kids to know where we stand,” he said. “We want to draw the line very clear for them.”

“I think the good news is that we’re all on the same page,” school board president Brian Fernandes added. “We’re all pushing towards this common goal, which is a transparent approach that parents will understand and students will understand what the expectations are and also what the ramifications are when the expectations are not met.”

The matrix also provides students with a sense of moral autonomy to make informed ethical decisions, based on clearly outlined consequences for specific behavior.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed out in “The Death of Character” that moral autonomy is important because “controlled behavior cannot be moral behavior, for it removes the element of discretion and judgement.”

Restorative practices included in the matrix provide another avenue for students to freely atone for their behavior and gain the moral autonomy to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

The West Jefferson Hills School District published a copy of the discipline matrix on its website, which can also servesas a reference for educators developing discipline policies in their schools.

Analysis shows school violence on the rise, majority of incidents in just 10 states

A recent analysis by the Educator’s School Safety Network found incidents of school violence occur in every part of the country, though more than half of the incidents in the 2017-18 school year occurred in just 10 states.

The Network – a nonprofit “dedicated to empowering educators with education-based school safety training and resources” – reports that the top 10 worst states for school violence include California, Florida, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina and Virginia. A total of 1,851 threats or violent incidents occurred in those states, or roughly 51 percent of the nationwide total of 3,654, USA Today reports.

The nationwide total, meanwhile, increased significantly from a total of 2,085 incidents the year prior.

Experts told the news site the results are influenced by a multitude of factors, but one common theme seemed to be the number of school districts in the state. Amy Klinger, director of programs for ESSN, told USA Today that increasing bureaucracy likely complicates efforts to coordinate responses to violent incidents.

Klinger offered Ohio as an example. The Buckeye State hosts 613 school districts, she said, and officials recorded 170 threats and 14 violent incidents last school year.

“It’s very difficult to make sweeping changes when you have 613 different government bodies making decisions,” she said.

School safety remains in the spotlight in the wake of a deadly rampage at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, an incident that sparked protests for gun control and efforts in virtually all states to control school violence.

The federal government has also dedicated $1 billion to help schools prevent violence over the next decade.

Klinger pointed out that while the bulk of the incidents are concentrated in certain states, school violence is a problem that’s plaguing communities across the country.

“We have seen that there are threats and incidents of violence that occur in literally every state,” she said. “So, it’s really incumbent upon every school to take a look at what they need to do.”

The ESSN research suggests improved communication and coordination between school districts and law enforcement could be an important element to keeping kids safe.

That increased communication would also undoubtedly result in a more consistent message that threats, violence, and other bad behavior simply won’t be tolerated at school. It’s an approach researchers at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture contend is the most effective for character education.

Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:

Moral education can work where the community, and schools and other institutions within it, share a moral culture that is integrated and mutually reinforcing; where the social networks of adult authority are strong, unified, and consistent in articulating moral ideas and their attending virtues; where adults maintain a ‘careful watchfulness’ over all aspects of a young person’s maturation.

Parents, educators and others working to end school violence can find a plethora of information about risk and protective factors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC website breaks down the individual, family, peer and social risk factors contributing to the problem, as well as other resources that offer “Opportunities for Action.”

WA revises student discipline rules to focus on keeping kids in school

Washington state’s new school discipline rules will continue to shift schools away from suspensions and expulsions in favor of policies that keep kids in the building for minor offenses.

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recently adopted updated rules for student discipline as part of a broader effort to close opportunity gaps between students of different races.

The new rules, which were crafted through feedback from students, parents, educators and community leaders, will be phased in over the next two years, the Snoqualmie Valley Record reports.

For 2018-19, the state is prohibiting schools from suspending or expelling any student for excessive absences or tardiness, with additional restrictions set for next school year. The new rules encourage schools to use best practices to minimize suspensions and expulsions, particularly in response to behaviors that do not pose a threat to school safety. The rules will also ban the expulsion of students through fourth grade, and require schools to clarify how students can continue their education if they are suspended or expelled for students above grade four.

Snoqualmie Valley School District Assistant Superintendent Jeff Hogan told the news site he supports the changes, which are consistent with his district’s move toward a softer student discipline approach in recent years.

“We started changing our policies to keep students in school and engaged rather than stunt their education over more minor offenses,” Hogan said. “Back in the day if a student skipped school, it was the policy to suspend them. Seems kind of counterproductive, don’t you think?”

The new state rules ensure suspended or expelled students can participate in the general education curriculum to complete their classwork and graduation requirements, though those sent home for more than 10 days will now be required to secure a reengagement plan before returning to school, the Valley Record reports.

At Snoqualmie Valley and other districts, officials plan to rely more on punishments like community service, restitution and in-school suspensions to keep kids learning when they’re out of class.

“Our goals are to give appropriate discipline to students and to shorten suspension and get kids reengaged as quickly as possible for when they are suspended for serious offenses,” Hogan said.

Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture have noted how discipline policies help students do the right thing can be more effective than simply imposing punishment.

Institute founder James Davison Hunter explains in “The Death of Character” that moral autonomy is an individual’s capacity to freely make ethical decision, because “controlled behavior cannot be moral behavior, for it removes the element of discretion and judgement.”

By helping students work through conflicts and behavior issues, through restorative justice practices or counseling that help them freely atone for their behaviors, they gain the moral autonomy to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

The blog Academike takes a deeper look at “Reformative Theory of Punishment,” as well as the concept of restorative justice that’s taking root in both schools and the criminal justice system.

“Crime is a violation of people and relationships. It creates obligations to make things right,” according to the blog. “Justice involves the victim, the offender, and the community in a search for solutions that promote repair, reconciliation and reassurance.”


Alternative thinking about student discipline in schools

Schools across the country, and California as well, are rethinking school discipline in an effort to reduce suspensions for black students, both through restorative justice programs and policy changes focused on keeping unruly students in school.

Supporters of the new approach have pointed to evidence in suspension data in calls on U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to continue policies designed to reduce the racial discipline gap, while others are outlining nuances in discipline data to understand contributing factors, The 74 Million reports.

“So much of the debate centers on whether schools are being too dismissive or overly punitive, and factors like school structure, which data show correlates to suspension rates, tends to get overlooked,” Tom Loveless, an education policy researcher for the Bookings Institution, told the education site.

Loveless published a report in 2017 on out -of-school suspensions in California schools that examined trends between 2012 and 2015. The study focused on students in schools with more than 50 students, and excluded data from alternative schools, juvenile delinquent facilities and those serving students with disabilities.

According to The 74, Loveless found:

–        Among schools that suspend a disproportionate number of black students, school size tends to correlate with suspension rates. The rates of suspensions for black students went up as school size increased.

–        Suspension rates for black students tend to peak in middle school and then fall in high school.

–        Black students are more likely to be suspended when they attend segregated or “racially isolated” schools than when they attend majority-white or mixed-race schools.

Loveless and other education experts are only starting to understand what the trends mean, but it’s obvious that the structure of schools have an impact on outcomes.

“Loveless’s research suggests there are factors within school districts’ control that impact suspension rates but have little to do with actual discipline policies,” the education site reports. “One factor is school size, particularly middle schools. Loveless noted that school size could be adjusted by reassigning students to different schools or building new ones.”

Another factor that’s less researched is students’ character formation.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted the critically important role schools play in shaping the morality and character of students in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America.”

“The components of morality are expressed in a community’s institutions, including its moral rules,” Hunter wrote. “When it functions well, our moral culture binds us, compels us, in ways of which we are not fully aware.”

Schools with a strong moral culture compel students to show kindness and compassion for their classmates, teachers and others, which reduces disciplinary problems.

The Community School for Social Justice and others are working to create that kind of atmosphere with restorative justice practices, such as fairness committees in lieu of suspensions.  However, restorative justice does not the offender off the hook.

“The Fairness Committee of The Community School for Social Justice is a restorative justice model of school discipline. This mode enforces positive conflict resolution, emphasizing on the violation of community norms established by all members of the school community,” according to the school website. “Fairness Committee seeks to encourage dialogue amongst community members in order to come to reach a consensus on appropriate consequences for those violations rather than handing out punishments.”