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New Center Aims To Curb School To Prison Pipeline

New Center Aims To Curb School To Prison Pipeline
New Center Aims To Curb School To Prison Pipeline GUESTS: Steven Dinkin, president, National Conflict Resolution Center Felicia Singleton, program manager, San Diego Unified School District

The schools have long had a challenging job of dealing with children who were not motivated to sit in the classroom. Not to mention students to get into serious trouble and end up in jail. This month a new center has opened in San Diego. It's a partnership between the San Diego unified school District, the national conflict resolution sensor and law enforcement. It is called the Center for community cohesion. And this is a whole new way of working with troubled youth. I am happy to have Steven Dinkin president of the national conflict resolution center and Felicia Singleton who is with the San Diego unified school district she is based out of Lincoln high. Steve, why do we need the center? This is a critical moment in our community where we need people to come together to address some very serious issues and especially with the center is located in southeast San Diego there is a high level of juvenile arrests and a lot of tension in the community. There is no better time to have a center for community cohesion. Felicia, you have done a lot of work at Lincoln high school called restorative justice. I don't know if our listeners know what that means. Tell us about that and how this approach is different prismatic restorative practices is a way of building community and developing a save climate on a campus. It's where we gather in circles to discuss issues and challenges, maybe even with classroom contents. And this is a way to bring harmed student harm community member into the school together in a group to talk about the harm, the impact that it had and try to develop a way to develop the harm his neck I know school districts find it challenging if you get a kid out of having spending some time incarcerated. With the center help you with that transition? Absolutely. The Center for community cohesion works with students who may have found themselves in a situation where they were looking at going to juvenile hall. And they facilitate a restorative conference with a bring law enforcement and the child's family together and it is a safe environment and is a way to unpack whatever cause that harm. It is a way for people to come together face-to-face, so that when the student reenters they feel supported. And whoever they harm, they have an ability to make a decision on how to repair the harm. Traditionally been have been alternative schools with this situation. This allows the child to go back to the school and go to the center to get the support that they need. Connect the law states that a student, has a right to go back to the neighborhood school. Rather than make it out of juvenile hall and they go back unsupported, this is an awesome way to bring the school and the family together. Often times students need extra support they need a plan. The notice to go back because everyone knows they been in juvenile hall. This is a way to shed that and build some alliances and relationships so that when they go back they can be set up for success prismatic feed tell us a bit about some of the programs. What might someone who comes to the center be doing? We have a range of different types of programs. As were talking about this morning we have a boy in the pipeline to prison. If it did come -- does commit a low level felony we can have them participate in a restorative conference and if they are able to come to an agreement and the youth arise at a plan and the district attorney's office in probation and other departments are willing to drop the charges. And restorative practices in school, we are able to work with the students to keep them in school as opposed to filing into the pipeline to prison. In addition to that, we started out as a mediation organization. We have developed a series of very innovative training around communication, methodology and what in particular is called the art of inclusive communication. We are bringing together a whole range of different types of community leaders and students and others in the community who are providing them with specialized training. This helps them to work across differences to resolve issues. Another matter that we are dealing with is equitable access to resources in the community. There are a lot of challenges for community members to access resources from County organizations. What you're doing is bringing together government sources as well as community members to work towards solving this very important issue. We are also interested in working with the police and citizens with the same type of training we bring officers and citizens together in the same room to try to create a stronger bond and understanding so that we do not have the same type of escalation of violence that we have seen in other communities across this country. Felicia, there was an incident in the news recently earlier this year between students and some campus police. There was an altercation. I don't know if you can talk about that specifically. What are some of the things of the center might be able to do to be able to prevent that. And has law enforcement and embrace the idea? Actually, the police have been tremendous. We have trained over the summer and they were very excited to participate. They have a great working relationship. This is a paradigm shift. We are trying to shift the mind of zero tolerance. The center has been a tremendous partnership. Schools are closed in the summer but the center is open. We were able to train students they are. Every doing this work at the feeder elementary school. The goal is, when there has been a harm, and not of the students have never been heard before. They got to the system of being kicked out of classes in schools. Now they get to start and be heard. We start being at the elementary level. By the time to get into high school their incidences have decreased because they happen heard. We are so grateful for the partnership with the national conflict resolution center. Symmetric key, it seems like you just said is that you were at a zero tolerance policy. In that case a kid would get expelled. And there would not be a coordinate intervention. One now, you have a strategy. And those kids also held accountable. Some kids want a suspension. And they have to answer to just more than a parent. Now it is a whole community that has eyes on them. Thank you so much for letting us know about this new center thank you Stephen, and Alisha. -- Felicia. Coming up sometimes there is an invisible divide the being -- between civilians and veterans. We have videos that can light the enlightened this relationship.

The new Center for Community Cohesion opened in southeastern San Diego last week with the hope of keeping at-risk youth out of jail.

The center is a partnership between the San Diego-based National Conflict Resolution Center, local law enforcement and the San Diego Unified School District.

A related program at Lincoln High School has been a model for restorative justice practices in San Diego. Steven Dinkin, president of the National Conflict Resolution Center, said the new center aims to build on what has been achieved at the school by expanding similar programs to the neighborhood's middle and elementary schools.

"We're also working with police and citizens with the same type of training, where we bring officers and citizens in the same room to try to create a stronger bond and understanding so we don't have the type of escalation and violence we've seen in other communities we've seen across this country," Dinkin said.

The center is open Monday through Friday and services are provided to community members free of charge.

Dinkin and Felicia Singleton with San Diego Unified discuss Monday on Midday Edition, the vision for the new center.