School Beat on school safety

This is a very important column on school safety by Lisa Schiff in BeyondChron.org, addressing some ongoing holes in our school safety policy. Everyone who cares about keeping kids safe in school should read it! Lisa writes:

The BOE has turned to the “Restorative Justice” model to address this complex of problems, which they formally adopted as a policy on October 13, 2009. The hope is that this model — having students who committ offenses become aware of the impact of their actions and take on responsibility for addressing the resultant consequences thereby enabling them to stay in school — will address the educational cost of students missing school due to suspensions and expulsions and will have a healing and positive result for all affected.

But restorative justice is not the answer to our school safety and student violence problem. While it is a worthwhile approach, by definition it can only be but one component in a larger effort to keep our students safe and to deal with violence when it occurs. Restorative justice is only appropriate for certain offenses (not, for instance, for violent assaults on children) and only comes in to play after the fact. What we absolutely need right from the start is a strong program that has as its objective preventing student crime before it happens. We must have as our priority the reduction in numbers of student victims and student perpetrators, and be prepared with solutions like, but not restricted to, restorative justice when our efforts fail.

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