“Have you ever messed up?” Over 50 people in the crowd raised their hands, responding to Benita Page from Tariq Khamisa Foundation. “Restorative practices need to be a way of life,” Page added, “because we’re all going to have challenges and mistakes.”
Last Wednesday, August 31st Mid-City CAN celebrated the adoption of the School Climate Bill of Rights, which prioritizes restorative practices and principles over traditional punitive policies in San Diego Unified. Leading up to the screening of Education Under Arrest, the community celebration centered around the conversation that restorative practices, to be successful, need to become a way of life and not just a discipline policy.
“To restore means to make whole again, it means to put back together. And really, that should be at the core of us anyway when we are dealing with our children, when we are dealing with our youth,” ACLU Criminal Justice Advocate, Monica Montgomery, reiterated. The current discipline system does not consider the trauma, social issues, and hardships that students experience, often resorting to suspensions and expulsions as the solution when students don’t follow school rules.
“A lot of the students that we’re working with are coming in with trauma so to expect that a student can keep their head up during class when they have all these traumas that are not being taken into consideration, that’s really the problem with zero tolerance,” added Zorel Zambrano, Curriculum Developer and Teacher in Restorative Justice for Special Education.
To embody restorative practices means to create a community and culture of healing and support that address the social issues and stressors that affect our health and wellbeing before they manifest as discipline issues.
The goal of the School Climate Bill of Rights is to create safe and healing learning environments in our San Diego schools by fostering trust in the classroom and district-wide by actively creating community and a sense of belonging where students have a voice. When discipline issues do arise, the bill of rights seeks to minimize suspensions and expulsions whenever possible by turning to alternative discipline methods that hold students accountable while affording them constructive ways to make up for their wrongs. Allowing students to remain in school means their learning isn’t interrupted and they can continue to be equipped with the tools to contribute in their families and communities.