Target: Robert Hammond (Commissioner of Education in Colorado), Tom Torlakson (California), Chris Koch (Illinois), Rob Saxton (Oregon)
Goal: Show support for programs that allow students to discuss misbehavior with their peers and teachers in lieu of suspension or expulsion.
Twenty-one schools in the Oakland, Chicago, Denver and Portland area have begun to implement what they call restorative justice programs. This allows students in alternative high schools the option of sitting in sessions with other students and teachers to discuss any frustrations or problems as opposed to being suspended or expelled due to zero tolerance rules.
This time spent simply talking allows students who often misbehave, who usually do not have positive adult influences in their lives, to learn alternative outlets to stress, frustration, or grief other than anger and violence. Moreover, these sessions build strong bonds between teachers and classmates.
In addition, and perhaps most importantly, this less rigid system gives troubled kids a chance to stay in school, on target with their graduation requirements, off the streets, and out of the prison system.
The Urban Strategies Council did a study showing that while 17% of students in the Oakland School Districts are African Americans, they are recipients of 42% of all suspensions—most of which are for non-violent crimes of “acting out”. The time lost in class due to suspensions makes keeping up with each class’ curriculum quite difficult, which in turn can make students feel excluded, even stupid, promoting more bad behavior.
Please sign this petition and show your support for the restorative justice program and rid America’s schools of no-tolerance policies.
Dear Robert Hammond, Tom Torlakson, Chris Koch, and Rob Saxton,
I would like to commend your efforts and show my support for implementing restorative justice programs in schools under your authority. There is no reason troubled kids should not be giving every opportunity to earn an education. Just having people to talk to can make all the difference.
Teaching these kids to deal with their stress, frustration, or grief in healthy ways is the only way to make them active and contributing members of society. The circle session among peers is a cheap and, most importantly, effective way of relating to others and dealing with whatever problems they may face so they may focus on graduating.
Keeping them out of school, or continuing to keep them back due to constant suspension, because of behavioral problems is the quickest way to them giving up and accepting a life on the streets.
Please continue your hard work fighting for the implementation of this much less rigid system of punishment in alternative schools and keep as many kids working towards their graduation as possible.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr