Dignity in Schools and Restorative Justice

Students have been jailed for water balloon fights in Wake County, NC. And 17-year-old high school senior Selina Garcia has been in adult prison there for three weeks now, following an altercation on a school bus. A coalition known as Dignity in Schools brought School Discipline Assessments for Wake County and another school system to the U.S. Capitol earlier this week seeking changes in school discipline policy and funding.

Learn more on the March 27 edition of the Education Town Hall. Guest: David T. Deal. The Education Town Hall airs weekly on We Act Radio, broadcasting from Historic Anacostia in Washington DC. Listen at 1480 AM in the DC area or via TuneIn. Pod cast available shortly after air time.

Also this week: Ward 6 Council Candidate Darrel Thompson on Education

Dignity in Schools

The School Discipline Assessments compare federal guidance on school discipline with the current situation in Wake County, NC and San Francisco, CA. New federal School Discipline Guidance, released in January, stresses non-discriminatory, fair and age-appropriate discipline policies and the creation of an inclusive, safe and positive school climate. But many school systems – including Wake County – have yet to implement most of this guidance. The Dignity in Schools Campaign – or DSC – a coalition of 78 organizations from 22 states brought School Discipline Assessments to the capitol on Monday, March 24.

DSC students, parents and teachers from 13 states met with the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Education to share experiences surrounding specific school discipline-related initiatives in their states, discuss the impacts of school discipline on students of color and students with disabilities, and call for reductions in the presence of law enforcement in schools.

Just last week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office released showing huge race-based disparities in school discipline nationwide. It is no surprise to many that black students represent 16% of school enrollment but 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of those subjected to school-related arrest. But the new data shows that this alarming disparity begins in preschool: Black youngsters, making up just 18% of preschool enrollment, constitute 48% of children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.

On today’s Education Town Hall, we’ll hear from David T. Deal who works with a school system near the nation’s capitol on restorative justice programs:

Restorative justice practice is a philosophy based on a set of principles for responding to harm and wrongdoing. It is victim-centered, and also focuses on offender accountability to those who were harmed. Within this philosophy, wrongdoing is viewed as a violation of a person or community as well as a violation of a discipline code or public law.

Historically, restorative justice practices were used to address crimes within the justice system. The principles have now been used in schools with positive results.

More on Fairfax County Public Schools’ Violence Prevention and Restorative Justice programs.

Selina Garcia and Wake County Schools

“In here I am no longer Selina Marie Garcia. I am #34! Not a human being but a caged animal with the number,” the 17-year-old student told the youth organizers, NC-HEAT. “Jail isn’t going slow me down nor stop me. They think its going break me but I am still going on.”

NC-HEAT reports:

The officer made the conscious choice to criminalize her. She wanted to focus on graduating this Spring, and needed to be in school to accomplish that goal none of that mattered to him – all that mattered was asserting his dominance and “teaching her a lesson.”

Here is a Raleigh newspaper story. A Wake County student brought the issue to the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools.

On Selina’s behalf, NC-HEAT highlights the need to stop criminalization in Wake County Schools. They offer the following statistics:

• Economically disadvantaged students (i.e., students receiving free or reduced lunch) are 63% of suspensions but only 33% of student population.
• Black students make up 25% of the student population, but receive 60% of suspensions.
• Wake County students received 1,222 out-of-school suspensions for poor attendance.
• Garner High School students received more suspensions than the students of Forsyth and Guilford counties combined (the third and fourth largest school districts in the state).

Here’s the youth petition. Please consider signing. — Remember: We Act Radio’s motto, #dosomething

David T. Deal

David Deal is involved in Restorative Justice activity in Northern Virginia. He is affiliated with the Northern Virginia Mediation Service located in the City of Fairfax, VA. The program has been working in Fairfax county public schools for six years and is expanding to Loudoun County, Virginia. He presented this work to the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) and has shared the lessons with other school-based and justice-system professionals: Fairfax County Virginia Multi-Agency Juvenile Restorative Justice and Lessons Learned from School-Based Restorative Justice Programs.



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