In a recent article, New York Public Schools are implementing new discipline policies for which many teachers have rejected. The focus of the new policies is to reduce the quantity of African American males who are subjected to suspensions and expulsions. Teachers from other school districts have responded to the new discipline policies with opposition and frustration.

The new discipline policies for New York Public School revolve around the concept of 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 new discipline policy training widens the gap between the students perceptions and the teachers intentions.

For example, 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.

In addition, the following course description infuses a continued widening of this gap. “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.”

As a teacher, your first response is to become defensive. When we become defensive we reject the efforts that are causing the defensiveness. In this instance, teachers will continue to blame the students, the parents, the administrators, and the community.

This is know to be true because of several responses to the new discipline policies in other regions in the country. For example, a Los Angeles Unified School District is seeing a similar spike in campus offenses after its school superintendent followed federal orders to reduce suspensions of African-Americans. Even threats against teachers are ignored, as administrators’ hands are tied by the new policy.

“I was terrified and bullied by a fourth-grade student,” a teacher at a Los Angeles Unified School District school recently noted on the Los Angeles Times website. “The black student told me to ‘Back off, b—h.’ I told him to go to the office and he said, ‘No, b—h, and no one can make me.’ ”‘I’m going to torture you. I’m doing this because I can’t be removed.’

Complained another LAUSD teacher: “We now have a ‘restorative justice’ counselor, but we still have the same problems. Kids aren’t even suspended for fights or drugs.”

In neighboring Orange County, teachers are dealing with increasingly violent and disrespectful student behavior since schools there also switched to the restorative strategy.

Teachers should respond to the new discipline policies as follows:

  1. The first response is to evaluate if your discipline policies reveal that you are a racist. You can use the Raccelerate Racism Formula as a guide.
  2. Write down the top ten ways that you as a teacher develop trust with your students.
  3. Develop five strategies for how you as the teacher will develop trust with your students.
  4. Have your students to write down the top ten ways that they develop trust with their teacher. Have the students to work in cooperative learning groups to develop a top ten class list on how the students in that classroom develop trust with their teacher. Have students to compare and contrast your list and the class list. have students to develop five strategies that will develop trust between the teacher and the student.
  5. Reflect on the differences between your five strategies and the class five strategies for developing trust.
  6. Develop a plan for developing trust based on those differences

Once you have developed trust with your students the need for new discipline policies will become non existent.

Related Articles

School Hope Changes in Policy Will Bridge the ‘Discipline Gap’

How liberal discipline policies are making schools less safe

Teachers complain about revised CPS discipline policy

St. Louis Public Schools reconsider discipline policy, move forward with turnaround plan

Is Syracuse schools’ revised discipline approach working? Not yet, monitor says


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


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