This week JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens convened an all-day training on a form of discipline known as “restorative practice.” It’s an approach to student behavior that’s supported by social justice groups and advocates like Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together or CLOUT. They’ve been pushing for JCPS to adopt a new form of discipline for a few years now.
As LEO reported in February, JCPS currently has a “zero tolerance” discipline model. It’s a strict, prescriptive approach to punishment, with severity depending on the offense. For years now, discipline has fallen harder on low-income and African-American students (particularly black special education students) when compared to white, a trend consistent with other urban school systems around the country.
In essence, restorative practice focuses on working with kids to help them target the reasons behind their misbehavior, while holding them accountable for their harm. Students occasionally perform community service as a consequence of their action versus the more traditional suspension. The approach is touted as being more “proactive” than the “reactive” zero tolerance model.
We’re told by JCPS officials that the training, which was not mandatory, had a good showing, with about 90 – 95 percent of schools sending representatives.
CLOUT and other advocates would like to see restorative practice written into the code of conduct, making the practice mandatory in every school in the district. A JCPS spokesperson tells LEO that the district is looking into that possibility but that revamping the code is a long process.
Chris Kolb, one of CLOUT’s co-presidents, applauds the fact that JCPS has at least introduced restorative practice to administrators telling LEO,
“We’re excited about that and we feel like it’s significant progress.”