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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: school discipline

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February 17, 2015 at 5:00 AM

Interest grows in new model for school discipline and youth justice

Monae Trevino, second from left, is embraced by a fellow student during a restorative justice meeting at Big Picture High School in Burien. Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times.

Monae Trevino, second from left, is embraced by a fellow student during a restorative justice meeting at Big Picture High School in Burien. Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times.

The paper hanging inside a second-floor classroom at Garfield High School spoke more pointedly than a raft of research articles about student frustration with traditional approaches to school discipline.

Under the question, “Why are you here?” 16 teens willing to devote weeks to getting trained as restorative justice mediators offered their answers:

“Healing harms,” one student said. “Unequal treatment,” added another. “Injustice toward students.”

School discipline in Seattle is so lopsided — with black students suspended at five times the rate of whites — that the federal Office for Civil Rights is investigating. But educators, parents and students, impatient with the slow pace of an inquiry that has been ongoing since 2012, are moving ahead with a solution known as restorative justice, which aims to repair harm, rather than focus solely on punishment.

“Everybody agrees that the system we have is not working,” said Garfield Principal Ted Howard. “We can’t afford to suspend kids for 10 days — do they ever catch up? I’ll tell you, it was a bitter pill for me, as a black man, to look at the data.”

In the past month, the urgency for a better answer has echoed up to the highest levels of King County government. King County Council member Larry Gossett said: “The jury is still out on how well restorative justice projects will lower suspensions and expulsions in our schools. But this holds some solid promise. And I am going to be one of those pushing for it more.”

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Comments | More in News | Topics: restorative justice, school discipline

October 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

NYU research: Don’t punish students for their temperaments

It’s easy to overlook and underestimate shy children, and they can suffer academically because they aren’t the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

But you can’t just force them out of their shells anymore than you can turn an antsy kid who easily flips out into someone who handles stress calmly and quietly.

Sometimes parents and teachers believe a shy kid (or a typically jumpy kid prone to disruption) can just be forced to change. But core personality traits ­— a complex amalgam of genetics and early experience — can’t just be transformed on command to fit the requirements of school.

“To discipline or punish a child for their temperament is really cruel because that’s not going to change,” said Sandee McClowry, a professor of counseling psychology at New York University.

So rather than trying to change a child’s temperament to fit the school, McClowry is looking for ways that schools can work with different types of kids, easing them into more productive behaviors.

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Comments | Topics: school discipline, Science of learning, Teacher-student relationships

August 8, 2014 at 5:00 AM

National report praises Rainier Beach High for discipline fix

Paul Tong / Op Art

Paul Tong / Op Art

When students show up late for class at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, they aren’t marched off to the principal’s office for punishment, they’re greeted at the door by a “welcome team” of school staff that gets them talking about why they’re tardy and how to fix it.

Maybe they’re having problems at home, or they need help with transportation or even an automated wake-up phone call if that’s what it takes.

Those three-to-five minute conversations have reduced tardiness at Rainier Beach and are cited on page 48 of a massive report on discipline issued earlier this summer as an example of how stronger relationships between students and adults can nip misbehavior in the bud.

Far too often, middle schools and high schools are suspending and expelling students for minor misconduct, according to the report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

And students of color, students with disabilities, and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are suspended or expelled at a higher rate than other students.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Council of State Governments, Rainier Beach High School, school discipline