School discipline in the new school year
Msgr. Chanel Jeanty, Dr. Abdy Javadzadeh, and Rabbi Gary Glickstein
August 1, 2016
We thank Miami Dade County Public Schools and the School Board for eliminating suspensions, the establishment of 9 Success Centers and starting the Restorative Justice pilot program.
While the Success Centers do keep children in a supervised setting, MDCPS has an opportunity to help children learn from their mistakes and address issues early-on before they are so great that they cause danger to the children and the community. As we go into the new school year, how do we know that the Success Centers will perform better this year?
Recently two reports by WLRN and the Miami Herald were aired and published. Both of these reports speak to the problem of out-of-school suspensions and the Success Centers. As members of People Acting for Community Together (PACT), we have been involved in assessing the Centers almost from the inception. Dozens of community leaders from PACT, including parents,grandparents, and other family members of our children visited the Success Centers multiple times and there is great urgency in addressing the Success Centers before the school year begins.
PACT is a coalition of 39 churches, synagogues, mosques, and universities. We represent over 50,000 people and work on serious community issues raised by our community members. We have been working on juvenile justice and school discipline issues since 2011. As a professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at St. Thomas University, a priest from North Miami, and a rabbi from Miami Beach, we come together through PACT to hold our community accountable for fair practices. Dozens of community leaders from PACT, including parents, grandparents, and other family members of our children visited the Success Centers multiple times and there is great urgency in addressing the Success Centers before the school year begins.
Success Centers have the opportunity to increase access, use best practices, and address each child, by improving the Centers by:
1. Separating children by their grade level.
2. Receiving their school work. Currently, students are continuing to fall behind on their work and the environment is not academic nor conducive to education and learning.
3. Having individual assessments made for each child entering a Success Center and measures of success for when they finished their time at the Success Center. There is a reason why the child is acting out and if they don't receive care and support on individual basis then the problem is never going to be fixed. Currently, there are no measures of a successful program.
4. Providing transportation. Many students could not to attend the Success Center as last year because there were no buses offered.
We are grateful to hear that ESTOPP, Eradicating the School to Prison Pipeline, was contracted to provide Restorative Justice training in two pilot schools and believe that we should use it throughout the district. Restorative Justice is a process where all students, teachers, staff, who have been affected by the deviant act receive an opportunity to talk about how they have been affected by the deviant act or crime and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. Under these circumstances, conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have perpetrated the wrongdoing, must be central to the process. In many school districts and cities, such as Oakland, CA., restorative justice programs have contributed to a tremendous drop in crime and deviancy and the number of students who are acting out.
Let’s use these proven interventions and start the school year out right. If not, thousands of more children will go through the same process this year and our problems of youth trauma and violence will continue.
See the Miami Herald Letter to Editor here: