Make school discipline a restorative process that reduces student office referrals and supports students by restoratively intervening, through peer mentorship, on patterns that lead to office referrals. If you’d like to read about a school that implemented this project, you can read our blog post entitled “The Solution Might Be Simpler Than We Think” from Luther Burbank High School In Sacramento, CA. 

How To:

Luther Burbank High School has developed an approach to school discipline that secondary school discipline offices can adopt in order to achieve more restoration school discipline. This plan not only responds to the incident that led to an office referral, but that can also respond each student’s deeper, underlying issues, and relates with the student and their struggles to be successful. Students receiving discipline referrals are matched with a trained peer mentor who supports them in identifying issues that are leading to referrals. This approach is flexible and can be implemented gradually, and each school can find a way to develop this process to fit their existing discipline process. Higher levels of adoption can even efficiently implement proactive approaches to restorative discipline that seek out “hot spots” at the school and prevent excessive referrals before they happen.

This approach has three main goals:

  1. Provide peer mentor support for every student sent out of class
  2. Connect with students sent out of class about factors impacting their success
  3. Identify students and classes with high numbers of office referrals and replace punitive approaches to school discipline with proactive, restorative approaches

Start by identifying some students who would be willing to serve as mentor students and developing a training plan with them. From there, you can coordinate with the discipline office to make a plan about how mentors can support students who are struggling.

To get started on this project, facilitate a discussion with your inspirED team about the following questions:

  • What does your school’s discipline office look like?
  • Does the school’s administration support transforming that environment?
  • Can your school assign a teacher to run the a mentoring class for a period?
  • Who could serve as student mentors, and what training should they receive?

Tips & Suggestions:

The group at Luther Burbank High School offers the following advice in successfully implementing this approach:

  • In conversations with mentees, try not to give advice. Ask questions. Listen more. Listening is very powerful.
  • When you give advice, give it once, then build a connection. Connection creates the motivation to act.
  • Keep a record of kids who end up the office a lot, and figure out a way to reach out to them when they aren’t in the discipline office. Follow up with these students.
  • Keep a record of students, teachers, and groups of students you help.
  • Interview students and teachers about their impression and feedback about what you are doing.
  • Larger patterns of office referrals can be studied by period/class/student to compare with previous patterns to determine a quantitative measure of progress and/or impact the program is having.
  • Coordinate with the discipline office to get a sense of current patterns and think about what needs to change and how.

Fast Facts:

  • 95% of out-of-school suspensions (of which there are 3.3 million each year) are for minor or nonviolent infractions (Tyner, 2017).
  • Being suspended one time can double the chances that a student will drop out of school (Tyner, 2017).
  • Suspensions disproportionally affect students of color: in the 2009-2010 school year, Black students comprised 18% of the student population but 40% of suspensions (Tyner, 2017). 

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