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Oakland Schools Reduce Suspensions By Teaching Relationship Skills

By: Serena Crawford

Restorative justice doesn’t sound like a system that is used at a school but the Oakland Unified School District has implemented it. They are trying their hand at this new system to try and keep the amount of detentions, suspensions, and expulsions down among the student body. It is meant for students that have disciplinary problems in school such as fighting, arguing with a teacher, or harassing other students.

When a student has a disciplinary infraction they are put into a group and a dialogue is started between the students. They are asked to hash out their frustrations with the other students that are involved. They are told to resolve these issues with dialogue instead of violence. Once the students begin speaking to one another they are able to get the feelings of hurt and anger that caused them to act out. They are able to have a back and forth discussion without punches being thrown and without any blemishes on their school records.

From 2011-2012 the US Department of Justice has data that shows that black female students made up 12% of the female students suspended as opposed to the 2% made up of white female students. The Oakland Unified School District is pioneering the way with the restorative justice systems. They are the first district to use this system and so far they have seen extremely positive effects.

The Edna Brewer Middle School has been seeing a lot of the effects from this system. They said that instead of having a bunch of fights on school grounds the students are now willing to sit down and talk out their problems with the other students. They have seen a very large decrease in the amount of suspensions. Over the last year the Oakland Unified School District has seen the suspension rate drop from 34% all the way down to 14%. They have also completely eliminated the large gap between the number of black students being suspended and the number of white students being suspended. If more schools can begin using this system the overall suspension rates around the country could drop significantly.

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