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Restorative Justice Replacing Suspensions

At Wells Community Academy High School, out-of-school suspensions are, well, out of school these days.

Under the leadership of school principal Rita Raichoudhuri, EdD Urban Education Leadership student, a decline in out-of-school suspensions has correlated with a significant decrease in the school’s rate of severe misconducts, declining from 13.6 percent to 4.4 percent year-over-year.

“They are here to learn, and if they are not in school, they aren’t learning,” Raichoudhuri said. “There is nothing punitive for them to have an out-of-school suspension for most of our kids; they wake up late and play video games or get into trouble and cause mischief—it’s not good for them or the community.”

Raichoudhuri has built alternative methods to address behavioral issues.  Teachers still utilize in-school suspension as a tool to ensure students are still engaged with their coursework.  However, the use of restorative justice practices has curtailed the number of incidents with a suspension from 858 to 253 from 2012-13 to 2013-14.

The peer jury process allows offending students an opportunity to reflect on their actions in the presence of their fellow classmates.  Trained peer jurors walk the offender through the process of reflection and jointly produce next steps—perhaps an apology letter or time spent volunteering around the school.

Even for repeat offenders, while there may be punitive measures taken, Raichoudhuri hits hard on the process of reflection—why did a student act as they did, determining the cause, and highlighting steps to correct the action in the future.  Watch more about the peer jury process in the video below: