Cami Anderson and her Discipline Revolution Project are the vanguard in the field of restorative justice practices. The DRP provides members with resources, training, and support on practical, innovative school- and system-level solutions that help educators focus on repairing harm and restoring relationships for better student behavior and achievement. Examples include:
- Building strong student-teacher relationships
- Incorporating social-emotional learning in the classroom
- Incorporating recognition of racial biases and institutional racism in teacher training
- Building a diverse teacher workforce
- Adopting empathetic discipline policies
This approach to school discipline is about more than addressing misbehavior, it is about attending to students’ social and emotional needs in addition to their academic ones.
In Memphis, Gestalt Community Schools has fully embraced this more holistic approach to education and discipline. Inclusive practices for students with disabilities, individually tailored academic and behavior interventions, and social-emotional learning are all built into the Gestalt Academic Model. Students at its Power Center Academy in Hickory Hill consistently outscore their peers at all testing levels. Mutually beneficial community partnerships supplement and enhance classroom instruction and help to create a supportive school environment.
As more schools shift away from punitive discipline policies, it is important to ensure that the cultural aspects that shape school discipline policies are also addressed. Janiya Douglas wants to see more dialogue specific to the needs at each individual school:
“Schools are implementing these new policies, but student voices are still left out. We need to have discussions between students and teachers to decide what we can do to change things at our school.”
The Tennessee Department of Education has developed a free resource for schools and districts to use as they strive to improve academic outcomes by improving school climate. More research is needed to quantify the impact of restorative practices, but by supporting this shift in approach, we will be able to see immediate subjective results in the academic achievement and quality of life for all of our community’s students.