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In an effort to reduce exclusionary practices within our
schools, IPS leaders have increased positive behavior supports throughout the
district to decrease our suspension and expulsion footprint.

 

Roughly two years ago, a review of district discipline data
identified the need to improve the climate and culture of several schools, as
well as reduce the amount of suspensions and expulsions districtwide. As a
result, district leaders immediately started laying the groundwork for
restorative justice training across our district.

 

Introduced to
IPS classrooms at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, restorative
justice empowers students to address issues they are faced with and to constructively
apply conflict resolution methods before a situation escalates, allowing them
to take full responsibility for their behavior.

 

“We can’t change what is going on in the community, but we
can impact what we do in our schools,” said District Positive Discipline
Coordinator Cynthia Jackson. “We can help our kids to be problem-solvers,
rather than excluding them.”

 

While student
safety is paramount, our schools are implementing various in-house options for
troublesome students. Keeping them in the classroom when appropriate increases
valuable instructional time. Missing only two days per month can add up to more
than a year of instruction lost by the time a student begins their senior year.
By cutting back on suspensions and expulsions, we also will see a reduced
amount of student dropouts. 

 

Our first
year of focus on reducing exclusionary practices resulted in an 83 percent
decrease in expulsions and a 41 percent decrease in suspensions. Our students
and teachers gained 83,000 hours of instructional time over the previous year.

 

Through restorative justice practices, the goal is to
prevent situations that would have previously resulted in suspension or
expulsion whenever possible and to provide students with valuable interpersonal
skills needed for future success. Implementing
a new disciplinary philosophy can be a lengthy process, we expect a timeline of
three to five years before full implementation is complete.

 

In the upcoming school year, IPS is looking to continue to build
school cultures that help children learn the skills needed to avoid aggression
as a response to conflict, which will create safe spaces for our students.

 

In order to promote the implementation of restorative
practices in our schools, it is imperative that we offer training and
networking opportunities to our community as well.

 

“We need to develop our staff, families, students and stakeholders’
understanding of restoratives practices. What they look like, what they mean
and how they impact our community as a whole,” said Jackson.

 

On June 22, IPS, the Peace Learning Center and the Desmond
Tutu Center will join forces to host Restorative Practices – Empowering our
Educators and Communities, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Christian Theological
Seminary.

 

The workshop is built specifically for teachers,
administrators, parents or community members looking to learn more and connect
with others working toward restorative justice.

 

To register for the workshop or for more information, click here