Restorative Justice Works

It is important to remember that Restorative Justice is transforming schools by building healthy relationships, healing the community and resulting in positive academic outcomes for all students. Please take some time to read the words of Lori Bezahler of the Hazen Foundation and NYC Educator Sarah Camiscoli

Eva Moskowitz resorts to fear tactics to scare us into thinking that New York City’s new school discipline code promotes chaotic schools and poor quality education (“Turning Schools Into Fight Clubs,” op-ed, April 2). The new code is modeled on proven practices that are recommended by the federal departments of Education and Justice.

Schools using restorative justice as an alternative to school suspension and other “zero tolerance” practices have been getting better results with their students. Once it began using restorative discipline, Ed White Middle School in San Antonio was ranked in the top 25% of schools in Texas for improved progress based on increases in the number of students passing the state math and reading exams. When compared with schools with similar demographics, most of the school’s students are economically disadvantaged; it ranked number two in the state for improved student progress.

Oakland, Calif., schools implementing restorative justice have had a 24% reduction in chronic absenteeism, a 128% increase in ninth-grade reading levels, a 56% decline in the high-school dropout rate, and a 60% increase in the four-year high school graduation rate. So more students are in school, learning and graduating on time.

School suspensions have been shown to harm all students, not just the ones being kicked out. An extensive study of data from a Kentucky school district reveals that all students’ performance on reading and math exams dropped in schools that had high suspension rates. That is all students, not just the ones being suspended. And the higher the suspension rates, the more the scores dropped. On the other hand, the school in the district that instituted alternatives to suspensions saw an increase in test scores.

Lori Bezahler

President

Edward W. Hazen Foundation

New York

Peer mediation programs can work. Youth justice courts can work. If not pursued with the proper resources, time and commitment, restorative justice will fail. But don’t tell me suspending a student in a room for three days without instruction is preferable to building systems to transform punitive discipline and create powerful relationships across school communities.

Sarah Camiscoli

Queens, N.Y.