San Diego Unified Approves New Discipline Policy
Students in San Diego public schools will now be entitled to restorative practices over traditional disciplinary measures when addressing conflicts. The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved the proposal put forth by a City Heights-based nonprofit.
The School Climate Bill of Rights from Mid-City Community Advocacy Network (Mid-City CAN) prioritizes mediation, counseling and communication over suspension or expulsion, which disproportionately affects San Diego students of color and those with disabilities. Research shows students who were permanently or temporarily kicked out of school are more likely to come in contact with the juvenile criminal justice system the following year.
A dozen and a half of speakers addressed the board in support of the measure, including students. Jazmine Bravo said she is behind the new policy because traditional forms of punishment can have a negative impact.
“The environment I am in is damaging to me because I feel like I am a bad student when I get kicked out of class for unnecessary reasons,” she said.
Another student, Estefanía Hernandez, said restorative practices could also benefit teachers. She spoke about an educator who wasn’t respected by her students but began using a tactic that encouraged kids to communicate while sitting in a circle shape.
“And when I came back from after a month of in-school suspension, and I was in one of those circles, by the end of the school year, all of her students loved her,” Hernandez said.
Francine Maxwell also spoke positively of the measure but she and several others worried whether the district could devote enough resources and money to implement the plan.
“How much money are we going to put behind something? Or are we just going to have another program where people are meeting and coming up with different resolutions but we’re not funding that particular resolutions?” Maxwell said.
Superintendent Cindy Marten admitted staff will have to carry out the implementation “in the context of our current financial constraints” because the upcoming school year’s budget — which included many layoffs — has been set, but said she hopes to build on that in following years.
“We have to plan in ways that are sustainable in the long term,” Marten said, adding that the current budget includes a program manager, counselor and resource teacher.
Marten said she will be working with the lead of the new Department of Restorative Practices, Felicia Singleton-Daniel to execute the policy across the entire district.
Singleton-Daniel said that she hoped to have an implementation plan within the first 90 days of the new school year, but said becoming a restorative district will take time and input from community members and students to educators and administrators.
“I’m a firm believer that, yes, we can mandate it and we can train everyone, but we really want to shift hearts, we want to shift cultures and we want to create a positive school climate,” Singleton said to cheers from the audience.
The document, years in the making, is a product of Mid-City CAN’s Peace Promotion Team.
Community members, a school counselor, an educator, a pastor, plus representatives from the United Automobile Workers Local 5810, American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and SEIU Local 221 also spoke in support at the meeting.