JCPS will expand restorative practices district-wide: ‘We want to keep kids in schools as much as possible’
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Restorative justice advocates are calling it a transformative decision, Jefferson County Public Schools announced Monday they’ll implement restorative practices district-wide within the next six years.
Rather than distancing a student who does something wrong by sending them to the office, teachers will be trained to work through conflict in the classroom.
Restorative practices encourage students who have been harmed and those who have done harm to work together on a resolution.
Research collected by the organization working on the expansion, Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, or CLOUT, shows a focus on behavior changes rather than discipline reduces school dropouts, keeps students out of the school to prison pipeline and increases academic success.
“Restorative practices focus on changing behavior and that includes changing the culture and the behavior of everyone in the school, not just the students,” CLOUT Chairperson Karen Williams said.
Twenty-nine schools in the district are already doing this.
At Engelhard Elementary, suspensions are down 79 percent since the teachers were trained in restorative practices three years ago.
In Blake Graham’s 5th grade class, a daily restorative circle has been therapeutic for students like Christian Johnson.
“I feel like I can just express what I want to express and how I feel to others and then I started making friends and then I started looking after them and they look after me,” Johnson said.
In Greta McQueen’s STEM classroom, students are taught to respond to conflict with kindness, giving peers a second chance to do the right thing.
“Helping others is a good thing and not a detriment,” McQueen said. “It’s a good thing in life and it’s a good thing in school.”
Critics like attorney Andrew Mize, who represents students in neglect and abuse lawsuits against the district, argue peer mediation can lead to further abuse by “forcing victims into vulnerable situations with a bully.”
“I would say you’re wrong,” McQueen said. “In a nice way, I would say you’re wrong.”
McQueen sees it from the parent’s perspective, too. She has three kids who have benefited from restorative practices.
“You know as an adult that you’re going to encounter people who are going to make poor choices, and we have to work with those people, correct? So, I say welcome to the world,” McQueen said. “My kids, they may come home with a story. In fact, one of my sons had a kid be very mean to him, I talked to both of them and it ended with (my son saying) ‘you're my friend’ and the kid looked at him and said ‘you're my friend too! Why did we do that?’"
Training for staff at twenty schools will begin in the summer. The district is working to identify which schools will implement restorative practices first.
Restorative practices have already been implemented in these JCPS schools:
- Knight Middle School
- Waggener High School
- Shacklette Elementary School
- Shawnee Middle School/High School
- Engelhard Elementary School
- Slaughter Elementary School
- Phoenix Middle School/High School
- Minor Daniels Academy
- Brooklawn Youth Services Alternative School
- Meyzeek Middle School
- Klondike Elementary School
- Price Elementary School
- Sanders Elementary School
- Blake Elementary School
- Rutherford Elementary School
- Wilder Elementary School
- Western Middle School
- Louisville Day
- WEB DuBois Academy
- Cochrane Elementary School
- ESL Newcomer Academy
- Gutermuth Elementary School
- Hawthorne Elementary School
- King Elementary School
- Mill Creek Elementary School
- Rangeland Elementary School
- Semple Elementary School
- Moore Middle School/High School
- Iroquois High School
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