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New Approach To Discipline At San Diego Unified Proven Successful

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July 30, 2015 1:09 p.m.

New Approach To Discipline At San Diego Unified Proven Successful

GUESTS:

Vernon Moore, executive director for youth advocacy, San Diego Unified School District

Matthew Bowler, education reporter, KPBS

Related Story: New Approach To Discipline At San Diego Unified Proven Successful

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our top story on KBPS midday edition the newly formed office of youth advocacy presented plans for the next school year to the San Diego unified school board this week the office which will advocate for marginalized and at risk student groups as part of a new approach to discipline at the district. That new approach called restorative justice has been in place for only a year but it has reduced the number of expulsions by 60%. The number of drug-related calls have also been reduced many student offenses that used to require automatic suspensions expulsions are handled by finding the root cause of the problem and it Toussaint -- much of the discipline is handled through peer counseling. Joining me Arterburn and more executive director of youth advocacy at San Diego unified and for in and welcome to the program.
Thank you I'm glad to be here.
Also is education reporter Matt Bolan.
Alfred and the statistics about the success of the program overall are really quite impressive can you start by telling us what the goal is of restorative justice?
Restorative justice is really part I would like to say of a larger effort of really engaging our students our faculty members of our staff members of our community members and an effort to open up and continue dialogue around how we can support our students and our schools. Restorative justice and sometimes you will hear it referred to as restorative practices is an effort really to bring the voices to the table so that we can have open and honest discussions about what is going on with the school so the restorative justice pieces specifically aimed at discipline issues that are on our campuses and it is a way in which we can involve students and faculty and community members to discuss what the harm that was done in a discipline infraction and then move on with ways to address that.
Now since this change since the restorative justice part of this larger pieces but put into place what kind of discretion to principals and school administrators have in deciding how to punish students for an offense?
Bobby had code is very specific regarding transgressions on campuses and the principles responsibility and obligation to address those self principle is -- of a campus here she is primarily the person involved with investigating incidents and then determining the discipline appropriate. So with restorative practices this is another tool that of principle can employ on a campus that we can create again for all we call them -- we use circles where folks can come together to talk about what the impact of the issue what harm was done and probably the most important piece how we move on so that folks involved the students involved in the incident can make better decisions in the future.
Out of the circle or whatever particular school might implement get it rude behaviors that are causing students to act out when it comes to maybe skipping school or getting into drugs, how do they get into that?
Those pieces will probably be introduced or come out in the circle discussion in a restorative circle however we also have our counselors and we have a mental health resource team and we have got other parts of her district that can dwell deeper into some issues that students are bringing. Again the real key is having our staff as trained facilitators and that is really where it happens. The better trained the facilitator is of the circle the better the circle can be in eliciting that our students are facing what issues, why students acted out the way they did and that again it comes from really good training and support ongoing support and that is what we have been employing this year we have what we called restorative collaborative meetings throughout the year where our initial schools that really took on this restorative work had an opportunity to work with our overall district facilitator and making sure they had questions answered got to bring up scenarios such.
Now in your report this week you focused on students at Crawford high who are involved in the restorative justice program. How does it work at that school?
Crawford high has their Academy of law students so it's a school in a school on the students are already interested in the legal process to begin with. But they do the students I spoke to weld with the fight first-time offense for students fighting and they will bring the two students together in one of the circles and through talking to them find out why they were fighting, why this -- they thought this was an appropriate way to deal with whatever the problem was and then whatever else is going on in their life that may be leading them to behave this way and then they do something interesting which they are not suspending students and giving them attention, their punishment is counseling or is actually building a better report with this other student in a way which I think is an innovative process that is probably leading to such these huge success rates in these kind of goals.
Also when the actual library is taking place about the particular incident, how engaged are other students and other peers of the people who are facing possible disciplinary measures?
The students that run the circles are very engaged there interested in it from an academic standpoint but they are also invested in their community as well. You definitely get that sounds from the students at Crawford. They are very interested. Now every student is going to be different as far as why they are there may be one student is more defensive than another and that's for the facilitators come in because they can help these kids open up more of. That can help them become really become more self-aware.
But you know this is a big change from the way discipline is handled in schools. There is been sort of all the zero-tolerance guidelines for several years now. Now this is part of a national movement?
Yes you're saying this all over the country and from what I've been reading I have been reading similar success rates in other states as well so yes zero tolerance was definitely the thing when I was in school it did not work it seemed to be applied disproportionately in lower income and minority populated school so it is definitely -- seems to be right now a better way to handle this particularly with the success rates last year there were 310 suspension semester so far or at least this immediate year 2013 -- 61 suspense is that kind of dramatic change and I think the number you are referring to is probably our recommendations for expulsions coming from our schools. That is a huge draw for a fair.
Part of the reason that is such -- that number but drop is such good news is because one of the this program is aimed at breaking what is called the school to prison pipeline. Brennan can you explain how mandatory expulsions are expulsions of any kind can lead a student to prison?
Expulsions and exclusionary measures we call it exclusionary discipline practices so that is been just as we have discussed the common approach a student does in infraction at a school in the next thing you know they are either suspended from school spending time at home or maybe recommended for expulsions depending on how severe the issue was. The problem there is that there is never the opportunity are usually never the opportunity to really get out what caused the problem or why did the student make that decision they made to sell drugs, to fight another student, to push a teacher sex? While the Ed code has identified there are still things that principals are required are mandated to recommend expulsion for that number used to be 12 or 13 things in 2013 and then in 2014 and 15 the board produced it to five so how that sometimes folks leads kids into a prison pipeline is that as they miss school through the exclusionary part where they are at home are being transferred to another school for students under expulsion, they miss out on the educational pieces they miss out on the connections they can make in school and as it continues further and further on in there are more days of suspension they become lost in our school system and they have a harder time reconnecting to the positive things that schools going to bring which include college career and success in the future.
In an easier path to drift off into the negative things.
Yes so the key is to open the dialogue and continue that connection with our students and we are using this restorative work to do just that.
The office of youth advocacy is really just getting started that you San Diego unified you made a presentation this week your plans for next year?
I'm glad you asked because really we have been working on youth advocacy of course we all like to consider ourselves youth advocates they are educators. Our superintendent Cindy Martin put forth this effort very clearly at a board meeting in early March and for thought was not necessarily to create an office that is going to be the one and only monitor of equity in the one and only monitor about to see. The idea was to create a team which we are creating to be the catalyst, to continue the discussion and put these issues that we have been grappling with an education for many many decades things like cultural proficiency our supports in training for lesbian and gay bisexual trans is -- trans gender working with students who are on the verge of dropping out or have dropped out of school creating an ethnic studies program that can meet our eighth energy requirement and her graduation requirements working with kids that may be using and abusing substances, all of these things are coming together in our youth advocacy office and it is such a wonderful thing because I get to work with the team of educators that is dedicated their careers to this work and then we get to represent the district but we are working with all the offices throughout the district. We work with the police department we are working with our instructional team and curriculum teams were working with superintendents to make sure that this equity work this lands on advocacy is pushed out into all of our schools.
I think people are very aware of the ethnic studies programs in colleges and universities bringing them into the lower grades into high school and maybe even the middle school. How do you see that is one of the pieces of this puzzle of trying to keep kids engaged in school and not become dropouts and not put their educational life that risks by not attending school or just not being involved.
Open of the primary things our students face as they go through schools questioning their identity, who they are as human beings, as people and as much as we can show in our study of history in our study of literature, science is, math that folks just like them as much as our students can see themselves in our content areas is our effort to make sure they have those connections to the areas. I mean we know -- I guess all of us have sat through a history class there looked through a history text and it is presented in a one-sided point of view that maybe is not inclusive of experiences of different folks. Well the notion of ethnic studies is the notion to break through and ensure that is much as possible we can include all perspectives from all different backgrounds and diversities and so there is a three-pronged approach going on right now where we are looking to put up an ethnic studies class and develop the course that again will satisfied the requirement as well as her graduation requirements but we are also looking at reviewing the curriculum we currently use in our K-12 system to see where we can infuse more perspective deaths -- and the diversity of the populations we serve.
Are student voices involved as you collect information.
Absolutely one of the key pieces to the advocacy movement is to ensure that student voices are heard and hazmat indicated there was a presentation at our last board meeting where we had for students from Crawford that had an opportunity to present to the board their views of restorative practices and the workings of the law Academy is so student voices are crucial to this effort and again the folks in the team we're pulling together a folks with proven track records of connecting with students, listening to them and acting upon that.
I want to thank you I've been speaking with Brenda and more at San Diego unified and Matt Bullard educational reporter. Thank you very much.
Thank you Marine.