In a recent article, New York teachers are required to follow new discipline polices which are designed to reduce suspensions and expulsions for Black students. The new discipline polices are a mandate handed down to school districts by the Obama administration. The best way to reduce suspension and expulsions that result from zero tolerance discipline policies is to transform the gap between student perceptions and teacher intentions.

The new for of discipline policy is Restorative Justice. Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offences. It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offence against an individual or community, rather than the state. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.

The first response from New York teachers regarding the new discipline policies is not to become defensive.

Teachers will become defensive due to the initial training required for the new discipline policies. During cultural sensitivity training required of school districts under restorative justice programs, teachers are told they are largely to blame for bad behavior of black students because they “misinterpret” African-American culture. The course description of a 2013 restorative justice-related workshop, according to a PEG brochure: “Institutions are infested with token people of color and racist white people who uphold White Supremacy, causing a survivor mentality among those who encounter daily micro-invalidations, -aggressions, and -assaults in hostile environments. Though a historical overview, learn about the oppressive system known as the American Education System, a school system that was never designed for children of color.” White teachers are taught to check their “unconscious racial bias” when dealing with black students who act out. They’re told to open their eyes to “white privilege” and white cultural “dominance,” and have more empathy for black kids who may be lashing out in frustration. They are trained to identify “root causes” of black anger, such as America’s legacy of racism. Teachers are told to respect black “culture,” which is described as more “emotional” and “physical,” and to give disruptive students a pass when they curse and threaten them, because “African-American boys are demonstrative” and that’s just how they “engage in learning,” according to the Monitor.

The new discipline policies is disempowering for many teachers. For example, instead of being kicked out of school or suffering other serious punishment, even repeat offenders can negotiate the consequences for their bad behavior, which usually involve paper-writing and “dialogue sessions.” ‘RJ (restorative justice) can encourage misbehavior by lavishing attention on students for committing infractions.’

Teachers are trained to make sure black kids “feel respected,” and to listen to their complaints without judgment or criticism. Misbehaving kids are handed a “talking stick” and encouraged to emote about the issues underlying their anger. More often than not, they are treated as victims, even if they start fights or threaten teachers.

No longer can teachers in these programs deal swiftly with a disruptive child by removing him from class. Conflicts take days, even weeks to resolve as schools coordinate talking circles around the schedules of teachers, principals, counselors, parents and even campus police — all of whom must take time out and meet to deal ever-so-delicately with a single problem student.

The second response to the new discipline policies is to keep track of lost instructional downtime.

In this way you will be able to provide your administrators feedback in regards to the amount of instructional time lost. The classroom disruptions will have an impact on other students aw well.

The third response to the new discipline policies is to keep a daily journal.

A daily journal will provide the teacher an opportunity to provide feedback to administrators. I will provide the teacher to reflect on how the new discipline policies impact the teacher too.

The final response to the new discipline policies is to promoting positive racial teacher student (Properateasclaships) classroom relationships which will transform the students perceptions of the teachers intentions.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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