2022-2024 School-Based Restorative Practices

In January of 2022, the Clay County Board of Commissioners approved the utilization of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to hire a full-time Restorative Practices Coordinator for two years, to focus on addressing criminal matters that occur within the schools.  Below is the proposal submitted to the Clay County Board. 

The COVID-19 Pandemic provided unique and challenging environments not only for student learning, but for student behaviors as well.  In Clay County, we saw an uptick in disorderly conduct, assaults, and threats of violence - with some of these instances resulting in schools needing to be locked down for safety reasons.  There has also been a rise in vandalism and criminal damage to property.  Other areas of concern include violence occurring on school busses, and harassing behavior not only in school, but outside of school utilizing social media.  With the disruption in the traditional school environment due to the COVID-19 responses and protocols, it appears that students were having a difficult time reacclimating to the “normal or new-normal” school setting after having been out of school and participating via distance learning.  

Most concerned citizens would agree that schools should be secure places were young peoples’social, emotional, and behavioral health needs can be addressed. Unfortunately, violence, bullying,and other disruptions in schools create conditions that weather interpersonal relationships and interfere with learning.  Nansel, T., Overpeck, M., Haynie, D., Ruan, W., & Scheidt, P. (2003). Relationships between bullying and violence among US youth. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 157, 348–353.  

The conventional approach to addressing violence, bullying, and other school disruptions, have included school administered punishments, such as suspensions and expulsions.  In addition to school-based discipline, students are additionally often routed into the juvenile justice system through police reports and/or citations.  The County Attorney’s Office determines if those instances would qualify for diversion through the Juvenile Diversion Program or be handled within the juvenile court system. 

The proposal for establishing Restorative Practices in Schools would allow for a more holistic approach to addressing student behavioral issues by creating a response to each incident that would examine possible school consequences, juvenile justice consequences, and the opportunity to repair the relationships that were damaged due to the student’s behavior. Restorative practices support the overarching goal of strengthening school climate by developing a restorative mindset in the adults, building community and responding to harm. The concept of restorative practices is that both individuals and relationships must heal after harm occurs in a school community.  

In our experience, after processing through what occurred and how the student was feeling at the time, often the issues discussed are a result of the student having been emotionally hurt, bullied, seeking attention, etc.  The underlying issues may be related to the mental and emotional well-being of the child, and the discussion may shift to what resources may be available for the student and their families in order for them to address the cause of the behaviors and determine ways to prevent these behaviors in the future.