That’s what we all want, right? Tonight at our Committee of the Whole the Board got our annual report on the implementation of the Safe and Supportive Schools resolution we passed in 2014. That resolution followed on the groundbreaking Restorative Practices resolution the Board adopted in 2009, which has completely changed the way the district approaches discipline.
I don’t want to minimize how much of a shift it has been, nor how much more has been demanded of teachers — sometimes without the necessary support and training. Passing resolutions and demanding change is one thing: you also have to back it up with dollars and training and support, and sometimes these resources haven’t been as available as they should have been.
Mainly what the resolution has accomplished is a big drop in suspensions. We have also seen much better tracking of out-of-school time–absences and also out of class referrals. We now have a much better idea of how much time students-especially students of color–are spending out of class, and while the picture is still quite depressing we at least are beginning to be able to trust the data.
No one should point fingers or be happy about this data: as a community we all own it and have a responsibility to improve it. Teachers are doing their best to manage sometimes difficult behaviors from students, parents are doing their best to get kids to school, and kids are doing their best to engage in class. And all of us can do better, if we support each other and figure out how to meet the most pressing needs in our communities.
Anyway, I highly recommend a close read of the latest report. It does a great job of detailing the district’s current approach and investments in safe and supportive schools, and is a good resource for anyone who wants to know more about the implementation of this very important and beneficial policy.
The news that 25 middle-schoolers from a Chicago charter school were arrested after participating in a food fight is all over the blogs, news and airwaves, from the The New York Times to ABC World News Tonight. The school said in a statement that “The Chicago police officers who help protect our school, concerned about potential injuries resulting from the fight, felt it was necessary to arrest those responsible.”
This brought to mind a discussion the Board had just last night, over a resolution to fund “increased police presence” at several middle schools in SFUSD (total cost – $40,000, our commitment to a school climate grant we received jointly with SFPD). Commissioner Fewer questioned the expense, wondering whether instead of a “presence,” police officers could provide training to teachers in de-escalation techniques. According to Ms. Fewer (who should know, since she’s married to an SFPD officer), police officers receive deep training in de-escalation, and could actually provide great support to our teachers in defusing tense situations in the classroom. Commissioner Kim additionally pointed out that increasing police presence at our schools is at odds with our new Restorative Justice policy, passed last month.
While we ended up postponing a vote on this expenditure until we can get more information about whether the presence of “School Resource Officers” (SFPD officers stationed at schools) is being “maintained” or “increased,” this news from Chicago underscores the concerns about the point of police presence in our schools. Personally, I think the presence of the right SRO can contribute in a positive way to school climate — promoting a positive and two-way relationship between law enforcement and families, for example, as well as de-escalation techniques for adults to use when working with troubled youth. But as the mother of two teens who were arrested in the Chicago incident points out, it’s pretty ridiculous to arrest a teenager for throwing a carrot.
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