School discipline with dignity?

Published 5:56 pm Monday, February 18, 2019

Have you visited a Selma City School lately?

Or maybe you have a child or other relative in one of our schools.  Either way, perhaps like me, you have heard negative comments about our schools and specifically the behavior of some of our scholars. 

Discipline-related concerns are not unique to our schools. 

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Like districts across the nation, we grapple with ensuring that our schools are safe and offer high quality learning opportunities for all.  Still, some of our scholars misbehave and have to be disciplined.  Is it possible to do it with dignity such that relationships are built or enhanced rather than broken apart?

Restorative justice has emerged as a practice that may disrupt the school to prison pipeline while allowing schools to discipline with dignity. 

According to EdWeek, restorative justice (RJ) is a powerful approach to student discipline “that focuses on repairing harm through inclusive processes that engage all stakeholders. Implemented well, RJ shifts the focus of discipline from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community.”

Unfortunately, RJ is sometimes not implemented well. 

Although Selma City Schools has begun to explore the concept of restorative justice by adding positive behavior intervention supports or PBIS, we will seek a successful model from which to learn as we move forward.  So where does that leave us now?

For now, it leaves us with much to learn. 

Yesterday, teachers at R.B. Hudson participated in a professional learning session about the school to prison pipeline.  Dr. Lamarr Shields defined the term for them through the lens of school culture and climate.  Ubuntu, an African concept related to finding common ground, was also explored. 

Teachers and leaders also learned about the role that implicit bias plays in student discipline while also identifying reflective practices. 

We are excited that today Dr. Shields will also speak with students at our middle school.  As we explore this important issue, we must ensure that the students’ voices are heard.  Our scholars will explore coping strategies as they consider the role that their own actions play in their education.

This is exciting work and it is necessary.  No, we do not have all of the answers but we do have a serious commitment to improve outcomes for our scholars, their families and our community.  We must recognize that our schools are a microcosm of our community. Team Selma appreciates your support and welcomes you to be a part of the process!

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